Police favor education over ticketing in city panhandling ban

Police favor education over ticketing in city panhandling ban

After lots of back-and-forth, a controversial ordinance banning panhandling is going into effect in Madison soon.

The ordinance bans panhandling at many busy intersections. Violators could be fined starting April 10, but Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said there will be a period of educating people on the new rules before any tickets are handed out.

The ordinance prohibits people from entering a road and approaching a running vehicle. It also bans a person from staying in a median longer than it takes to cross a road. Under the law, drivers who stop for panhandlers could also be fined.

Those against the ordinance said it targeted Madison’s most vulnerable population.

If you drive near highways 51 and 30, chances are you’ll spot Tim Samdlin.

Most days, Samdlin, 24, spends about 8 hours at the intersection collecting money. On other Madison streets you can find his mom, dad and girlfriend doing the same.

“This is what we do to get into motels, to get showered, to keep our phone active so we can look for work,” he said.

Starting in April, panhandling on about 100 Madison streets will be banned.

“I’m literally going to be sleeping under a bridge again,” Samdlin said.

Proponents of the ordinance say panhandling is unsafe and distracts drivers. Anyone who violates the law could get slapped with a citation totaling $92.50 for the first offense. However, Koval said ticketing will be a last resort.

“I don’t think that we want, for a minute, to think that we are going to solve a problem by ticketing our way out,” Koval said. “We are hoping that with the public education, with the verbal warnings, and information pamphlets people will get the resources they need, and ticketing will be avoided.”

As a dog owner, Samdlin said homeless shelters aren’t really an option, but he is actively searching for a job and hopes something will pan out soon.

“Until then, if the city ordinance comes through, if this city ordinance comes through, I don’t know what we are going to do,” he said.