SPOKANE, Wash.- The panhandling ordinance passed by the Spokane City Council in August is now in effect.
As of October 6, 2012, the ordinance makes soliciting for money in major arterials and intersections in downtown Spokane between Boone and 7th and Maple and Hamilton illegal.
Panhandlers will now face a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000 and 60 days in jail if convicted.
Before the measure went into effect, Baristo Manual Martinez told us that he would see people begging for money at the intersection near his coffee shop on a daily basis.
"I'd have people all over the place," Manual Martinez said.
However, since Saturday, he has already seen a change in the number of people soliciting money around his business.
"I haven't noticed anyone out here for that last couple days," Martinez said.
However, even with the new measure, there are still panhandlers downtown.
One police officer patrolling the area told us that at this point, they are only giving out verbal warnings until everyone is aware of the change.
One man we spoke with Tuesday did receive a verbal warning from police, but was still standing outside on a street corner holding his sign downtown.
"He told me that if he caught me again, I was going to be arrested," Brian Peters said.
Peters also told us that many panhandlers he knows plan to just move around more often instead of standing in one spot like they do now.
However, the change have left many like Peters, trying to figure out they will do now.
"Maybe call it quits because my other friend said he is going to help me today. He says I don't need to be out there doing that," Peters said.
The new law does not make it illegal to stand outside with a sign. If that were the case, it would violate free speech laws. Instead, the activity becomes illegal when a person starts asking for money and reaches out in the street to take it.
Spokane Valley also has a no panhandling ordinance. Now that one is also in effect downtown, many hope it will reduce the number of panhandlers in the area.
"I could see why they did it because it is a hassle. You know I can't walk downtown without somebody asking me you know for money," Martinez said.
Matt Christensen who was eating outside at a restaurant downtown said he has never been bothered by the panhandlers, but can understand why the ordinance was passed.
"For a lot of people, it hits them in the heart and they can't say no, so I don't think they want people being bothered with that," Christensen said.
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