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City of Lansing may decriminalize panhandling

Next week the city council will hold a hearing on getting rid of the ordinance.
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Panhandling in public is a crime in Lansing, but maybe not for much longer. The city ordinance banning it is one of seven that could be repealed in the near future.

Drive through the Frandor area in Lansing and you’re bound to see a panhandler asking for money, and technically violating a city ordinance.

Lansing City Councilman Brian Jackson said, “If a police officer wanted to they could use their discretion and either cite somebody for a misdemeanor or arrest them.”

Next week the city council will hold a hearing on getting rid of that ordinance. Councilman Brian Jackson, spearheading the proposal, says that according to Lansing Police this ordinance is not enforced. While a court ruling found the ban unconstitutional, begging in public is still on the books as a crime in Lansing.

Jackson said, “It’s just unfair to people in general because people don’t necessarily want to be in that position to ask people for money or to beg for different things for their livelihood.”

But some businesses fear this repeal could cause an uptick in panhandlers harassing their customers.

Melissa Habermehl is Salon Manager at a local Cost Cutters.

“I could see it becoming more of a problem,” Habermehl said. “We are always looking out for our customers and stuff like that. If we see someone getting approached because we tend to see the same types of people-- same few people-- that really hang around and continue to do it.”

City Council President Peter Spadafore says there are better ways to address this issue than sending police after panhandlers.

Spadafore said, “Strengthening unemployment, the social safety net, those types of things, helping people find jobs or housing and things like that, that the good stuff that government can do.”

Councilman Jackson also says this repeal doesn’t protect those panhandlers who may get too aggressive.

“They could be cited for harassment, they could be cited for assault or a disorderly person or creating a disturbance or even blocking a public right of way, so there’s things that could happen,” Jackson said. “But just being a quote-unquote beggar in public is not a crime that’s worthy of jail or punishment.”

There will be a public hearing on this matter and the other ordinance to be appealed, on April 12.

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