City-Parish Council takes aim at streetside donations, basketball games _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Basketball goals are set up along North Pine Street, which is in Lafayette City-Parish Council Member Kenneth Boudreaux's district, June 23, 2015, in Lafayette, La.

Put away your basketballs and donation buckets: City-parish government wants to keep pickup games and solicitors off public streets.

City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux at Tuesday’s council meeting asked for stricter enforcement of laws aimed at keeping roadways clear.

“It is truly an accident waiting to happen,” Boudreaux said, telling his fellow council members he has often seen children darting in and out of traffic at busy intersections to collect donations.

Under state and local law, only firefighters are allowed to collect donations on public streets, a provision that allows for the well-known “Fill the Boot” campaigns.

“We are averaging between two and six complaints a day about people soliciting at intersections,” Police Chief Jim Craft said. “We are very concerned about pedestrians being struck and killed.”

Officers already have been issuing citations to groups that keep returning to ask for donations after being told to stop, Craft said, but the department will step up efforts.

Boudreaux asked city-parish staff to reach out to churches, schools and other groups to let them know that asking for donations on public streets is illegal and to consider placing signs at intersections known to be popular with solicitors.

“I would support a zero-tolerance policy,” Councilman Don Bertrand said. “It’s just not a safe way to collect money.”

Boudreaux also pushed for tougher enforcement of public right-of-way laws to keep basketball goals off public streets.

Besides the safety issues, residents have complained about stray balls hitting vehicles, blocked parking and children going onto private property to retrieve balls, Boudreaux said.

It’s an issue that generally heats up in the summer when children are out of school, but Boudreaux said he seems to be getting more complaints than usual this year.

Craft said his officers will be on the lookout for goals, first asking players to remove the equipment voluntarily before taking more forceful action, such as confiscating the goal or issuing citations.

“I hope we don’t have to escalate to that,” Boudreaux said.

He also asked City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert to research the possibility of local government co-opting abandoned and unwanted lots to transform into basketball courts.

“Just maybe give them a place to go,” he said.

Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.