Proposed ordinance aims to reduce panhandling

"Scaring customers, they're scaring business owners."

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - "Scaring customers, they're scaring business owners. As business owners, we sort of live down here so it becomes a very uncomfortable and possibly threatening situation," one business owner said. 

Business owners, one who wanted to remain anonymous, described certain acts disturbing a normally peaceful downtown Palm Springs.

"Probably three or four times a week they're camped outside the front door on the sidewalk. They lie down or sit and they can get aggressive in their panhandling," Bill Reseburg of Bobby G's of Palm Springs said.

"A man came in that asked for five dollars. I said no, he swore at me a lot then when I came out, he threw my postcard rack," a business owner said. 

A viewer sent a video to us, showing a homeless man knocking the phone out of a business owner's hand - a business owner trying to get video of him outside his store. 

After much anxiety over situations like these,  local business owners welcome a new proposed law that would make it illegal to sit or lie on downtown sidewalks -  hopefully deterring panhandlers and homeless people who harass shoppers and create problems for merchants.  

Business owners say they have nothing against homeless people sitting around minding their own business.  

"It's important we separate the difference between homeless people in need of services, and people panhandling sometimes who are not even homeless at all. We don't want to clump that into one category," a business owner said. 

If approved, the ordinance would let police  ask people sitting or lying on the sidewalk to move. Anyone who doesn't comply could get a citation, fine to be determined.

"The ordinance will be specific as to what type of behavior will be prohibited. A family enjoying a night out will not be affected by this," Sergeant Harvey Reed from the Palm Springs Police Department said. 

Palm Springs city council will vote on the possible ordinance Wednesday.

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