Indianapolis, ACLU reach panhandling deal

Janet Ringer
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Indianapolis and American Civil Liberties Union have reached a deal over the city's panhandling ordinance. The city can keep panhandlers from asking drivers for money but it can't stop them from soliciting pedestrians.

Janet Ringer and her dog Toby camp out daily in front of Circle center mall hoping for money and dog food.

"I know the rules. I just sit here," she said.

Ringer also knows the city has done everything it can to crack down on panhandling downtown.

"They've gotten very aggressive," she said.

But the city also agreed it erred in telling people like Janet Ringer they were violating the panhandling ordinance by asking drivers for money when their signs were aimed at pedestrians.

"The people they should really worry is the people who go up to people and ask for money. Not those of us sitting here minding our own business," said Ringer.

Just a mile away, Chris Hart works an intersection off the interstate.

"I don't want to cause trouble or go to jail so I try to be respectful with the cops," he said.

Since he's standing right along the road, he is breaking the law and he knows it, but he's not too worried.

"I go where I don't have to share the corner with anybody and I don't get harassed by any police officers," said Hart.

Mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter admits enforcement of panhandling has been focused on downtown. In fact, they're still pushing for an even tougher law.

"It costs the city conventions, and it's costing the city visitors and it's just something we can't have," said Lotter.

Janet Ringer, though, is not going anywhere - at least for now.