Panhandling in Dublin – What is it and what can we do about it?
Panhandling exists in the City of Dublin. You’ve probably noticed it in several locations, including the area of Dublin Center Drive and Sawmill Road and the entry/exit into Perimeter Center and Avery Center shopping centers.
What is panhandling?
Generally, there are two types of panhandling: passive and aggressive. Passive panhandling is soliciting without threat or menace, often without any words spoken – just a cup or a hand held out or maybe holding a sign. Aggressive panhandling includes soliciting coercively, menacing actions and a stated or implied threat.
In Dublin, the panhandlers are exclusively passive panhandlers. These panhandlers make it a habit to be polite and appreciative, even when they are refused. They do not engage in aggressive panhandling.
Why are they panhandling in Dublin?
Typically, relatively few panhandlers account for most complaints to police about panhandling. Most studies conclude that panhandlers make rational economic choices–that is, they look to make money in the most efficient way possible. Panhandlers need to go where the money is. In other words, they need to panhandle in communities and specific locations where the opportunities to collect money are best–where there are a lot of pedestrians or motorists, especially those who are most likely to have money and to give it.
Most panhandlers are not interested in regular employment, particularly not minimum-wage labor, which many believe would scarcely be more profitable than panhandling.
How much money can panhandlers make?
How much money a panhandler can make varies depending on his or her skill and personal appeal, as well as on the area in which he or she solicits. Estimates vary from a couple of dollars a day on the low end, to $20 to $50 a day in the mid-range, to about $300 a day on the high end.
Why doesn’t the city do something about panhandling?
Courts have ruled that passive panhandling is constitutionally protected activity. Panhandling is a form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protection. The City cannot prohibit passive panhandlers who are located in public places, such as sidewalks, and are not creating a safety concern or trespassing.
If a panhandler stands on a highway for the purpose of soliciting contributions from the occupant of any vehicle, then Dublin Police could take enforcement action. However, this act must be witnessed by a police officer in order for enforcement action to be taken. Many panhandlers move along to another location or stop panhandling when they know they are being observed by police.
So what can we do about panhandling?
Should you ever feel threatened, call 911 immediately to contact Dublin Police.
Enforcing laws against panhandling plays a relatively small role in controlling the problem. Public education to discourage donations, and providing adequate access and availability of social services are more effective tactics in a comprehensive community response to panhandling.
Do not give panhandlers money or anything of value!
There are better ways to assist the homeless. Do not be fooled; food, shelter, and assistance are available to those in need. Panhandling for drugs or alcohol is very common. Do not be angry or feel guilty. While in a vehicle, do not roll down your window or engage in conversation with those standing on the side of the road panhandling. Think about your liability if a panhandler gets struck by a vehicle while coming to you for money.
Ultimately, the issue of passive panhandling in Dublin is a community issue where everyone needs to help by not contributing money to panhandlers. If they don’t receive money, they will move on to another location.
In the News
A series of stories in the Columbus Dispatch the week of July 17, 2017, reported the Columbus police have stopped enforcing panhandling ordinances in Downtown Columbus and the Short North because of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that is challenging panhandling laws as unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment Freedom of Speech. A Dispatch editorial and column by reporter Joe Blundo addressed panhandling myths and that it might be better to direct money to agencies that help people get off the streets for good.
Panhandling has no boundaries and residents often report seeing panhandlers in some of Dublin’s business districts.
Communities are working collectively to educate the public and dispel myths often associated with panhandlers. The City of Dublin encourages people who want to help to give money to organizations that are committed to helping people get off the street. There is a variety of helpful organizations in our area, including:
- Dublin Food Pantry
- HelpLine of Delaware and Morrow Counties
- Hilliard Food Pantry
- Volunteers of America
- Faith Mission
- The Open Shelter, Inc.
- Homeless Shelters in Central Ohio
- Downtown YMCA
- HandsOn Central Ohio
Panhandling in Dublin
The City has received complaints regarding the presence of panhandlers in Dublin. Here is information you should know and share with your friends, neighbors and business associates.
- Solicitation, including individual panhandling, is a form of speech entitled to First Amendment protection. The City must recognize an individual’s right to solicit in accordance with their rights under the First Amendment, while at the same time ensuring that their conduct does not threaten their own safety or the safety of those being solicited.
- The City cannot prohibit passive panhandlers who are located in public places, such as sidewalks, and are not creating a safety concern or trespassing. All federal courts considering blanket solicitation prohibitions have found that these restrictions are not narrowly tailored to further any legitimate government interest.
- Panhandling is prohibited on highways – similar to code provisions in other Central Ohio cities, such as Columbus, Grandview Heights, and Grove City. The Ohio Revised Code also prohibits highway solicitation in R.C. 4511.51(b)(1).
- Most of the calls the Police Department has received in the past 16 months have involved individuals who are not speaking to or approaching anyone, but rather holding a sign.
- If panhandlers are on private property, law enforcement officers can still act in conjunction with the property owner to issue citations for criminal trespass.
- The City will continue to work on outreach programs addressing this community problem.
- What options are available to the City in response to the recent increase in resident complaints regarding the presence of panhandlers in Dublin?