Panhandling by people on highway exit ramps is seen from time to time in the Twin Cities, including Eden Prairie. A recent incident involving a family on the exit ramp from westbound Interstate 494 to Flying Cloud Drive has spotlighted the broader issue of panhandling and city policies.
What is Eden Prairie’s policy on panhandling?
First, the courts have ruled that panhandling is not illegal, provided panhandlers do not engage in any illegal activities. Such activities might include approaching a car and its driver. State and local laws, however, vary on this matter.
Eden Prairie Mayor Ron Case said the city council and city officials have periodically discussed panhandling, but they haven’t brought any ordinance provisions to a formal vote. While the police receive complaints from citizens about panhandling, the city primarily listens and doesn’t act on most of these calls.
In September 2022, the city published an article on its website addressing the issue of panhandlers.
“A person has the right to stand on any public property,” Case said. “They, obviously, cannot be engaged in any criminal activity or cause a general disturbance.”
Personally, Case would like to see the city help panhandlers.
“For instance, if one of our police officers encounters a panhandler, they would speak to them and give them references to community public and private agencies,” he said. “The person(s) can turn to these agencies for help based on their individual situations, which have forced them into panhandling.
“I believe if our city and others trained people in these situations, it would be a step, not only in helping the person in need but would also contribute to the number of panhandlers,” Case added.
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