In an effort to curb unwanted panhandling and aggressive solicitation in high-traffic areas – including, notably, Mill Avenue, near Arizona State University – the Tempe City Council approved amendments to two sections of its city code Thursday night.
The council voted unamimously, 7-0, to pass the changes.
In a request to the council earlier this month, City of Tempe documents stated that, “aggressive solicitation activities create a safety hazard and an increased potential for criminal activities.”
Multiple city council members agreed that the changes would create a safer environment in high pedestrian and tourist areas — specifically the busy Mill Avenue area and throughout ASU’s Tempe campus.
The amendments would make it illegal to solicit within ten feet of or directly adjacent to the entrance of a business, as well as fifteen feet from any transit stop or taxi stand. This could mean more business for stores in areas where this is becoming more of a problem.
“There’s your average pan handlers this time of the year that flock to Mill Ave when it’s cold everywhere else,” said Amanda Darling, an employee at Hippie Gypsy on Mill Avenue. Darling, who works in the heart of the Mill Avenue district in downtown Tempe, has witnessed many situations where aggressive solicitation was involved.
Besides panhandlers, Darling said she has seen many people being “badgered” by religious groups trying to spread their message not only on mill, but on campus as well.
“I don’t think it’s horrible,” Arizona State Criminology student Julie Martin said when asked about aggressive religious preachers. “People have the ability to proclaim that, and I think that is one of the basic rights of our country.”
Martin believes the proposed amendments aren’t necessary and if there were a situation of unwanted or aggressive solicitation, the victims could simply call the police. “It’s not something I think there needs to be a law for,” Martin said.
When asked if he felt safe walking around Mill Avenue, Nick Yoakum, a frequent on Mill, said, “Generally yeah. Every now and then people jump out at you and ask for a dollar or a cigarette and it gets kind of intimidating.”
To go into effect within the City of Tempe, a proposed amendment must go through a three-part process. First, it is proposed at an issue review session held by city council. If the council accepts the proposed changes, the amendments get voted upon at two different public hearings. Only if it receives a majority vote in both hearings can it be adopted as city code.