Bylaw geared to moving panhandlers off medians

Chilliwack is moving to quell aggressive panhandling on city-owned property with a new bylaw amendment.

City council voted Monday to amend its Traffic and Highways bylaw with that goal in mind.

“It was fairly outdated so we added some definitions, like what panhandling is and locations where this activity is not permitted,” said Coun. Chuck Stam, who is also chair of the public safety advisory committee.

The recommendation was to seek a way for enforcement officers to address panhandling, especially on highway medians, because asking them to move along wasn’t working.

“The idea is basically to provide police and bylaw enforcement with the tools to do a better job of controlling the panhandling in our city.

“I think we’ve done that with these new definitions and the greater clarity this offers,” Stam said.

At this point the proposed fines are still being reviewed, and will be presented separately to council, so it’s not yet known what the ticket amount might be for panhandling.

Residents had complained to the city about people begging for change, and panhandlers approaching people in mall parking lots or from atop highway medians.

“Panhandlers were operating in some fairly unsafe conditions and in high traffic,” Stam stressed.

“There was no legal mechanism to get these individuals off the centre median of the highway.”

The bylaw, which has passed introduction and three readings, will make it illegal to engage in panhandling:

• on any highway which delays traffic;

• which interferes with safe movement of traffic;

• which causes any obstruction; or

• risks harm to the panhandler.

Stam said the amended bylaw is “very much a copycat” piece of legislation, similar to that adopted by other Lower Mainland municipalities.