Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy came to City Council March 6 to ask for a new ordinance that would ban panhandling citywide.
Roddy said that ordinance would allow officers to have consistency when approaching panhandlers, as panhandling is against the law in some pockets of town but not others.
He also said it would provide a legal way for police officers to approach panhandlers and provide them with resources that may help break harmful cycles. For example, if the panhandler needs money because of a drug addiction, a police officer can direct them to a rehabilitation program.
“This [is not just] an enforcement, it helps us get out with individuals that may have a serious need…” Roddy said.
The council people showed support for the ordinance but had questions about how it would be policed.
District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd asked about the function of no trespassing and no loitering signs on private property.
Roddy explained that the police would respond to calls from the property owners, but would not apprehend people on their own as the panhandling law only affects public areas and it would not be clear if the individual was actually allowed to be on the property or not.
Byrd later asked about whether there would be a language in the ordinance to address the difference between panhandlers and charitable organizations asking for donations. Roddy said that this would be accounted for.
District 6 Councilwoman Carol Berz asked about a passive-aggressive panhandling problem her constituents were experiencing and how police would be able to react to those situations because there were no outright requests for money. Roddy and Deputy City Attorney Phillip Noblett said that language in the ordinance would allow police to approach those panhandlers as well.
District 4 Councilman Darrin Ledford asked how the police department was planning to communicate the future changes once they occurred. Roddy said that the department had already developed plans for community outreach.
Following their questions, council people wanted to know how quickly the ordinance could be put on council agenda.
Noblett said the legislation could be drafted in time for next week’s meeting.
Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah.