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A file photo of downtown Knoxville. The city's skyline is seen in this aerial shot.

KNOXVILLE - Knoxville city officials are considering more restrictions on panhandlers.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported the City Council will vote today whether the ban should be expanded to include solicitation within 20 feet of homes, closed-in pedestrian walkways and businesses.

Current restrictions ban panhandling that is aggressive, after dark or close to bus stations, banks, crosswalks, some parking areas and restaurant patios.

Rick Emmett, the city's downtown coordinator, said he recommended changing the city's ordinance after getting complaints from residents.

"It's an attempt to get some sort of control in place because we've had an increase in recent years," Emmett said. "It's not out of control, but it's a concern."

Joan Marshall, general manager of Cru Bistro downtown, said she worries that panhandlers could keep customers away, especially if they aren't used to the urban atmosphere.

"They target people, and it makes people who don't live downtown feel unsafe," she said. "Right now, if you call the police about somebody panhandling in front of your business, they may or may not be able to do anything about it."

Emmett said not everyone would be deterred, but that this would allow officers to act without getting a complaint.

"This gives them certainty if they see someone panhandling in front of a doorway or an overpass, they can now cite them without having to have a complaint or anything," he said. "They can be more proactive in their approach."

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