Not exactly. In some instances, it’s considered free speech and completely acceptable. It’s a complicated issue and one that many cities across Texas seem to grapple with. A simple Google search will review the challenges communities face.
In 2013, the Aransas Pass passed an ordinance banning aggressive solicitation. That prohibition is narrow but most reasonable when considering such a ban. However, is it legal..? That remains a topic for discussion.
Some of the elements within our ordinance likewise constitute other law violations, such as simple assault. So, if this ordinance were to fail, the offending conduct might trigger another infraction. As for police enforcement, officers tend to go the tested and proven enforcement routes rather than enforcing this ordinance. However, if the situation warrants, the officer will charge someone with the ordinance violation.
When a report comes in, we inform the complainant of what constitutes a violation of the law. Additionally, officers observe the panhandlers and ensure they are not engaging in other prohibited activities, like soliciting from the roadway. As long as the activity is not a violation of the law, the individual is free to continue without governmental intrusion. So, what can be done? Not much more than is already taking place…
If you disagree with the activity, ignore it. Some cities have posted signs encouraging folks to not give out money or items to the homeless but rather donate those monies to organizations set up to assist those in need. However, many folks don’t like being told how to spend their money, and such signage likewise can draw negative attention or activity. As far as the panhandler, the law is clear. Their activity, in most instances, is a protected one.
If you’d like to assist those in need within our community, visit the Tri-County Christian Service Center of Aransas Pass on Facebook. There are other resources within the Coastal Bend as well. Visit this online resource for details on those organizations. ***APPD is not directly affiliated with these services.