Mayor Ballard proposes panhandling ban in Indianapolis

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Panhandlers like those Eyewitness News spotted at 38th and Meridian and 86th and Keystone could be affected by a law Mayor Greg Ballard proposed Friday.

"Unfortunately one of the biggest complaints we get involves panhandling," Ballard said during his State of the City address Friday.

The proposal would ban panhandling in the old mile-square downtown and limited hours of panhandling elsewhere.

"I don't think they should panhandle at all. Just very distracted," said a motorist at the Keystone off-ramp along 86th Street.

He said that as he drove past Joe, a regular panhandler at the ramp.

Civic and business leaders complain panhandlers at major intersections and downtown are driving people away from stores and streets.

Eyewitness News asked one panhandler on the north side, "Are most people out here homeless people?"

"I hate to say it, but no," he replied.

Ballard wants to stop what he calls "rackets" by banning panhandling downtown in the mile-square and limiting it from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily everywhere else, instead of dawn to dusk.

"Probably be a good idea," one motorist said.

It would even effect non-aggressive panhandlers like Joe, who says he's homeless due to disability after heart surgery. Joe carries a copy of the panhandling law in his jacket and follows it carefully, staying out of traffic and silently holding a sign.

Courts say it is a First Amendment right to do that. The most city can do is limit hours.

"8-5, that sounds reasonable to me," said Joe.

He knows people are tired of panhandlers.

"I can understand, but I am in a predicament. I don't have much choice," he said.

And he's got supporters.

"As long as they're not harming anybody, that's all that matters," said one motorist.