Transients, Panhandlers Cause Trouble in Cities
Business owners in the downtown areas of Billings and Missoula are searching for solutions to the increased trouble they're having with transients and panhandlers.
Missoula has an ordinance against pedestrian interference and aggressive panhandling, but some business owners say the consequences aren't severe enough to discourage the behavior. Some are calling for fines and possible jail time for repeat offenders.
The city rejected a stricter ordinance after a federal judge in Idaho ruled that asking for money is protected speech.
In Billings, the Downtown Billings Alliance met Wednesday to discuss similar issues with public intoxication and transients.
The city's downtown resource officers say the number of responses to drunken and disorderly has increased, as has the number of citations for open containers.
Billings Mayor Tom Hanel suggested moving some services for the homeless away from the downtown area.