The Abilene City Council has discussed restricting the boundaries of soliciting and panhandling due to certain safety concerns.
The Abilene Police Department identified certain areas of solicitation and panhandling that are considered high-traffic areas prone to accidents. One of these intersections is particularly close to campus.
Chief Jimmy Ellison of the ACU Police Department said, “You don’t want people standing in the roadway soliciting for any reason in an intersection that is already accident prone, specifically the ones they are addressing. The only one that would have an impact on the ACU campus would be the Ambler Avenue restrictions which would go from Grape Street to East Lake Road.”
The other possible areas of restriction, according to the Abilene Reporter-News story “Public can chime in on possible solicitation and panhandling ordinance change,” are as follows: Buffalo Gap from South 27th Street to Antilley Road, Southwest Drive from Winters Freeway to Catclaw Drive, Business I-20 from U.S. Highway 83 to North Judge Ely Boulevard, South 14th Street from Willis to Butternut Street, Judge Ely from East South 11th Street to East North 10th Street, Treadaway Boulevard from East Highway 80 to South 11th Street and Treadaway from South 27th Street.
“Some of the intersections have had collisions where solicitation has been involved but not involving any ACU students or employees that I know of,” said Ellison.
The Abilene Reporter-News said this ordinance will restrict people under the age of 17 from soliciting in roadways, and require those who solicit to wear reflective vests. Panhandling will be prohibited within 50 feet of vulnerable areas such as automated teller machines, public parking garages and entrances and exits of banks and restaurants.
Soliciting and panhandling won’t be banned everywhere in Abilene, but only at dangerous intersections where safety should be a top priority.
“I would say, overall, I don’t see it having any impact on the campus because, typically, we don’t see any solicitation from that roadway anyway, or any roadways around campus,” said Ellison. “If it’s an organized student activity, typically the university offices would have to approve of those activities and would likely not approve a club activity or anything involving roadway solicitation because of the potential danger. So, I would say, based on the locations that they have on the proposed ordinance and based on the fact that university students typically aren’t involved in roadway solicitation for any purposes, I don’t see it having any impact on the campus or the students.”
However, these proposed restrictions could effect other people. The Abilene Reporter-News said the proposed ordinance could affect the fire department’s annual Fill the Boot Campaign where they collect money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the vendors who sell the Abilene Reporter-News paper at various intersections and even high school kids who fundraise.
The change is still not final. The Abilene City Council sent the proposed ordinance to stage two of the process and will reconvene on Nov. 21 for a public hearing.