Dallas police, aided by a private force of security officers employed by business advocacy group DowntownDallas, today began enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy that applies to panhandling, as well as other minor offenses such as public intoxication and sleeping in public, reports the Dallas Morning News. The policy takes effect as 24 extra police officers begin patrolling the downtown area, which has added several thousand new full-time residents primarily living in formerly vacant office towers converted into apartments and condominiums.
A year ago, top city officials made a public appeal to Dallasites to stop giving money to center city panhandlers and instead donate loose change to charity through dozens of small drop boxes located within downtown businesses. (The program failed to generate much money.) In 2007, the City Council made it a crime for one person to solicit another any time between sunset and sunrise. Solicitors are barred from approaching people placing money into a parking meter, panhandling near restaurants’ outdoor dining areas, and soliciting within 25 feet of an automated teller machine, bank enterance, pay phone, car wash, gas pump, or public transit stop. The vast majority of people ticketed under Dallas’ panhandling ordinance never pay their fine or otherwise clear their ticket.