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Proposal to curb panhandling gets OK

| Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh City Council gave unanimous preliminary approval Wednesday to restrictions on panhandling at night and near outdoor cafes, bus stops, theaters and automatic tellers.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, which represents more than 800 businesses that favor the proposal, said distance and time restrictions are needed to protect Downtown shoppers and theater-goers from annoying and aggressive panhandlers.

The proposed city ordinance would outlaw panhandling between sunset and sunrise; within 25 feet of a sidewalk cafe or a line of people waiting to enter a theater or buy tickets there; and within 10 feet of a street food vendor or a bus stop.

Police would give first-time violators a warning and call a social services agency to offer the suspect assistance. Second and third violations would carry maximum fines of $50 and $300, respectively, and 100 hours of community service.

Anyone convicted of physically aggressive panhandling under the ordinance could be punished with a $100 fine, 100 hours of community service and up to a month in jail. A second conviction triples the maximum fine and jail time.

Quietly panhandling with a sign or cup to collect donations would be permitted all day, but not in the restricted areas.

Council could give final approval to the ordinance next week.

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