Sioux Falls City Council is looking at a proposal that would make public soliciting against the law. We're talking about those people you may see with signs asking for money, or help, along the side of the roadways.
Sioux Falls Police is requesting a ban be put in place, following some other cities lead, including Rapid City.
While it's not a big problem in Sioux Falls, yet, it's a request by Police in an effort to be proactive and follow suit before it becomes a bigger one.
The ordinance, with changes included, doesn't allow people to solicit in public. Private property is OK as long as permission is granted by the property owner.
It would also be illegal to solicit aggressively by following or harassing.
Finally, one of the biggest changes, people would not be allowed to ask for money from cars in traffic.
It's an issue not many of us would call too serious, but according to police, it's necessary to talk about.
Sioux Falls Police Chief Doug Barthel said banning solicitation is becoming more common in other cities. Because of that, Sioux Falls is starting to stand out as one that still allows the activity, drawing more people from out of town to ask for money.
"They don't live here. They come from out of state, come here and set up shop. Our fear is that the word will spread because there are a lot of cities that have similar prohibitions and if the word gets out that you can just come here, I think our numbers are going to grow," Chief Doug Barthel said.
Most councilors were receptive of the idea verifying that it is a real problem that needs to be addressed. When it comes to panhandlers, Barthel said he's rather see money stay local.
"I would much rather see a citizens give that money to one of the great organizations in our city and let them determine who truly has a need and who doesn't," Barthel said.
"We want to make sure Sioux Falls is known as a place that takes care of its own, and that's the issue, we thank you for working on this," Councilor Michelle Erpenbach said.
If the ordinance passed and was made law, violations would be considered a Class 2 Misdemeanor with a fine of $95 set by the court.
"If they are truly in need, they don't have $95 to pay. If there are ways we can point them in the right direction and stop doing this, that's our goal. It's not about seeing how many people we can haul to jail," Chief Barthel said.
Officials say the intent is not to take away from people who have a need, or send them to jail, but rather point them to places for help. For example, safe havens where people are fed, sheltered or can seek jobs in town. That's where you're encouraged to donate.
The council is expected to vote on the final ordinance on Tuesday, October 16th.