Bakersfield seeks to crack down on panhandling

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The Legislative and Litigation Committee held a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss an ordinance to prohibit or at least limit panhandling in the city of Bakersfield.

The committee noted during the meeting that the term "panhandling" is not actually a recognized term but instead were saying the ordinance will be proposed using the term "prohibited solicitation."

It also needs to be clearly drafted to protect people's First-Amendment rights.

Bakersfield is modeling it's ordinance after other cities that have laws in place against "prohibited solicitation."

Jeff Hayward, president of the Downtown Business Association, said, "What this is going to do is actually make it more difficult for panhandlers to set up their business essentially, outside of somebody's small business and collect funds and intimidate customers."

Chris Bouvia, who has been living on the streets for several years says he doesn't believe in "aggressive panhandling" and not all people asking for money have the same agenda.

"It's the ones who take advantage of it, the ones who don't have the will or desire to change their lives or make an effort to benefit themselves or others," said Bouvia.

Hayward said, "My one or two dollars is not going to help them very much, but the phone numbers, the rides, the meals that was what the truly needy need."

Anthony Sherman, 24, who is a transient says he comes to Bakersfield specifically for the panhandling.

"Last time I was here, I spent like three days doing nothing but panhandling and ended up with a Nook."

"Cities such as Santa Clarita, Huntington Beach, Visalia, and Modesto have all made it more difficult to panhandle and what we're finding is people coming to Bakersfield, because right now there is no ordinance, there's nothing, so why not," said Hayward.

The first reading of the ordinance will go before city council on March 5.