City News

City to crack down on roadside panhandlers

Panhandlers are prohibited from loitering on 90 high-traffic streets, including North Park Street and University Avenue, under a city ordinance that will take effect Monday. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

A panhandling ordinance prohibiting people from loitering on medians of busy roadways and intersecting streets is set to take effect in Madison Monday.

The Median Safety Ordinance—designed to keep both pedestrians and motorists safe—was created out of concern over panhandlers and others standing on the medians of busy streets for extended periods of time.

The regulations of the ordinance cover approximately 90 streets, as well as the first 200 feet of their intersecting roads. In these enforcement zones, pedestrians cannot approach any vehicle—with the exception of those that are legally parked—or stand on medians unless waiting to cross a road at a crosswalk. Drivers are prohibited from parking or stopping their vehicles on restricted parts of highways, as well as suddenly decreasing speed or deviating from traffic to respond to someone illegally on the highway.

Instead of cracking down immediately, Madison Police Department officers will first emphasize informing the public and first-time offenders.

“It is the MPD’s hope people will voluntarily refrain from violating the ordinance,” the department said in a statement. “Officers will not start out by issuing citations. They will be providing information and warnings.”

These warnings will come in the form of educational pamphlets, available in both English and Spanish, that contain a map highlighting the roadways covered by the ordinance and fines that those in violation of the ordinance can face.

Despite initially focusing on warnings and providing information to first-time offenders, officers will issue citations to people who continue to break the law. Fines for multiple offenses within the same year range from $92.50 for the first offense to $439 for the fourth offense.

Although the ordinance is targeted at controlling roadside panhandling, the restrictions also apply to anyone on the street for other reasons. Law enforcement personnel, city maintenance workers and people entering a legally parked car, among others, are exempt from the restrictions. 

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