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By Steve Hunley

The Knoxville City Council will consider expanding the current ban on panhandling. Currently the law prohibits panhandling that is considered overly aggressive. While that is somewhat vague, the law also restricts panhandling after dark, or near banks, bus stations, as well as restaurant patios.

The expansion of the ban would extend to panhandling within twenty feet of homes, closed-in pedestrian walkways, as well as businesses.

The City has had numerous complaints from citizens and the City of Knoxville’s downtown coordinator, Rick Emmett, made the recommendations for the City Council.

Balancing the real needs of the less fortunate and delineating between those of aggressive beggars who may represent a threat to the safety of citizens is frequently difficult. In this instance, the expansion of the ban serves the best interests of citizens, homeowners, and business folk.

Expanding the ban is not only in the best interests of homeowners and businesses, but those who are panhandling. It allows for law enforcement officers to handle such situations without causing any citizen to be unduly fearful of those panhandlers who are aggressive.

There are numerous organizations and agencies to assist the less fortunate; all too often those panhandling are not concerned about food or shelter, but acquiring cold hard cash. Just what they use the cash for – – – cigarettes, liquor, or drugs – – – is up for speculation. Nobody wants to deny the less fortunate any real opportunity to get back on their feet or provide assistance. Mr. Emmett’s recommendations are sound and the Council should approve them.