Baltimore considers safety buffer zones

You'll find them manning the medians, walking out into stopped traffic and, in the case of Rick Latta, racing down the sidewalk towards a street corner near you.
 
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"Last night I went out and I didn't get two dollars, because everyone avoids it and I can understand," said Latta, who lives in a senior living facility.
 
After Baltimore City Councilwoman Rikki Spector nearly ran over a panhandler in her blind spot, she decided something should be done to beef up enforcement of the existing law---banning them from the medians, but she didn't stop there.
 
She also considered creating buffers in commercial areas, which critics like the American Civil Liberties Union say would push them out of the city entirely.
 
"If you have restrictions... you know, 10 feet in commercial areas, it basically means that in no commercial area in Baltimore can you engage in this 1st Amendment right," said Meredith Curtis of ACLU of Maryland, "and that's where people tend to congregate and it makes the most sense for people to be asking for money."
 
Spector now says she'll propose limiting the buffers to places where people are most vulnerable---where they're dining outside or paying for parking or entering pedestrian bridges.
 
"It is your freedom to be in the public area," said the councilwoman, "There are also some protections that we should have from people being aggressive or in our face."
 
But for 66-year old Rick Latta, any policy raises a big concern.
 
"I got to come out here and humiliate myself and beg for 19 dollars to get my medicine, which is cancer medicine."
 
It's a concern this new "get tough" policy could make life even tougher on him.
 
"Christ, I'm already in a wheelchair, and I just about gave my life... I gave my leg over in Nam and what good is it doing me?  So if they eliminate that, they're going to hurt a lot of people."
 
The new proposals are expected to be introduced to the council's judiciary committee on Monday.
 
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