LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Protecting pedestrians or targeting panhandlers?
One month after a new pedestrian safety ordinance took effect in Louisville, critics are saying it unfairly punishes panhandlers, but police claim it's about saving lives.
Shaggy Obed, a panhandler, said he's noticed more police confronting people asking for money near the road since LMPD began enforcing the ordinance in early October.
Obed said that still hasn't changed how he gets money daily, though.
"Naw, naw. I haven't changed nothing," Obed said. "The only thing that it has done, is that I just look like a common day criminal."
To Obed, that's because the new rule states people must cross at crosswalks or intersections on arterial roadways, and pedestrians can’t stand on a median or road unless certain exceptions are met. That means panhandlers walking into the road to get money from cars are breaking the rule.
"I'm not a criminal," Obed said. "I'm just a panhandler. I'm just trying to hustle enough cash to scrape through a day."
Records show during the first 20 days that the pedestrian safety rule was enforced, LMPD gave out 9 citations. Four claimed people violated the city ordinance and five were violations of an already existing state law. Two of the nine violations were related to people being on a ramp to the interstate; it was unclear whether they were panhandling. Another citation was given to a hitchhiker.
Out of the nine citations, six specifically dealt with panhandling.
Obed said he finds that unfair.
"Somebody has got to come up with some way to eat," Obed said. "Panhandling, as illegal as they want to make it, it's a whole hell of a lot nicer than some of the other crimes that could go on."
One woman driving by said she feels bad that panhandlers have been cited.
To see if other violations were taking place, WAVE 3 News observed an intersection right outside of LMPD headquarters.
In five minutes, five people were seen walking on the busy road and not the crosswalk. None were seen getting citations.
Penalties for violating the pedestrian safety rule can range from $25 to $250.