Residents hope "no trespassing" signs cut down on panhandling

Published: .
Updated: .

Residents near one northeast Indianapolis intersection looking for a way to crack down on problem panhandlers may have gotten answers.

Panhandling at the off-ramp near E. 86th Street and Keystone Avenue, Joe is hoping for a good day. But drivers say the major city gateway has become a major mess.

"Very messy. Very messy down there," said one motorist.

The people driving through don't like seeing the panhandling, but now, they're seeing something else - a new "No Trespassing" sign just installed by city crews.

A neighborhood group says businesses in the area requested it. They're tired of panhandlers who have made a messy camp in the woods.

"I'm hoping that they don't live back there," said one driver who spotted the sign. She hopes they "honor the no trespassing zone, because I feel guilty not giving them money and I often have."

But will the sign stop the panhandling?

"I think people will take it that they're not supposed to trespass down there further," said one driver. "I'm not sure it will do any good up here."

"It applies to me...I just can't go back in the woods," said Joe, who says he can't work in roofing after undergoing open heart surgery two years ago.

In fact, police are now trying to figure out if they can even enforce the no trespassing sign. It's unclear.

Joe has a constitutional right to show his sign, he just can't say anything or he becomes an illegal aggressive panhandler.

"Obviously, we want to protect everybody's rights," says Mayor Greg Ballard's spokesman Marc Lotter.

But he says the city must also protect the visitor and convention business and quality of life by limiting panhandling. Ballard will have new plans in a couple weeks.

"Just about one percent of panhandlers are actually homeless. So it's a racket. Something we need to address as a city," Lotter said.

But no trespassing signs probably will not be part of that plan.