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City Talks Panhandling Ban and Graffiti

New ordinances being mulled.

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Citydesk has learned that law enforcement, legal staff and city officials have been huddling over the possibility of putting forth new ordinances regarding two very different but extremely high-profile issues: graffiti and panhandling.

"The graffiti ordinance is still in discussion between legal and the mayor and council," said Adam Park, Mayor Dave Bieter's communications director. "[A proposed ordinance] will likely be advanced sometime this summer to help reduce the increased number of graffiti incidents that we have seen in the city over the last few years."

When Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson presented his department's annual crime statistics, there was much to praise--the city's overall crime rate has continued to drop--but Masterson is also the first to point to what he calls a "skyrocketing" problem: graffiti.

In 2011, Boise saw a 34 percent increase in reports of graffiti, following a 2010 increase of 39 percent.

"This is something that the [police] department and the city have been working on for a number of years," said Lynn Hightower, BPD spokeswoman. "Graffiti increases the public's perception of fear and crime. It's not only ugly, it makes people feel unsafe."

Hightower said that graffiti, while not usually associated with other crimes, "degrades property values and creates an atmosphere of fear and security among residents."

Park said more details on a proposed graffiti ordinance are expected in the coming months.

Park also confirmed that the city's legal department has forwarded information that could lead to a possible panhandling ordinance.

Sources told Citydesk that the mayor and City Council will soon consider a packet of information including a legal review of how panhandling may or may not infringe on the First Amendment.

Section 6-01-07 of Boise City Code states that a person who begs in a public place with the intent to intimidate another into giving money or goods or obstructs a pedestrian or vehicular traffic in a public place is guilty of a misdemeanor.

In December 2010, city officials launched a voluntary "Have a Heart. Give Smart" campaign, asking citizens to avoid giving to panhandlers. At the time, city officials conceded that asking for money in a public space is legal but they were intent on advancing the issue.

"If someone is demonstrating threatening behavior, that would be prosecuted," said Park in December 2010. "There are some discussions about revising the ordinance."

For now, however, proposed legislation has yet to surface for either issue.

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