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Sacramento Panhandling Ban Could Go Into Effect Next Month

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento city officials say panhandling is an issue downtown, and they've been working on a solution for months, and they think they found one.

The latest proposal by the Sacramento City Council aims to keep panhandlers away from a "captive audience" -- in other words -- people walking on public property who are forced to pass by panhandlers.

Council members say tougher enforcement could be the answer to safer streets downtown.

As pedestrians hurry through K Street in downtown Sacramento, some walk cautiously.

"It's not a safe environment there should be someplace for them to go," said Anthony Lachapelle.

Lachapelle doesn't walk downtown after dark; he says his own coworkers have been assaulted in the past.

"It's a problem," Lachapelle said.

"It's in different places, in front of stores, on sidewalks, waiting for buses," said Carl Kowall, who works downtown.

Kowall works downtown and says the panhandlers don't stop him from getting out of his office on foot.

"This is really about trying to make people feel safe when they are downtown," said Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer.

Schenirer is behind the push to make downtown streets safer.

"I️ think the homeless situation overall has gotten worse over the last couple of years," Schenirer said.

Schenirer says homelessness around Sacramento County increased by 85 percent this year; he says it's time to take action and curb that number.

Under a proposed ordinance by council members, it would become illegal for panhandlers to be within 35 feet of an ATM, and within 50 feet of public transit stops.

The proposed ordinance would also make it illegal for panhandlers to solicit on street corners and be within 200 feet of an intersection.

"We wanna make sure there's no room for subjective enforcement of the ordinance," said Noel Kammermann, who works for Loaves and Fishes.

Some homeless advocates like Kammermann are wary of the proposal. He says he's concerned the new rules would criminalize the homeless.

"It comes down to proper enforcement, objective enforcement and making sure people aren't being unfairly targeted," Kammermann said.

The move comes a week after a jury found the city didn't discriminate against the homeless with the enforcement of its camping ordinance. Attorneys in that case have vowed to appeal.

Sacramento police say they want to reassure the public they're not going to target homeless people, unless they are responding to a specific call.

If the ordinance passes, the rules will go into effect next month.

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