Warner Robins wants to prohibit 'aggressive' panhandling

Warner Robins attempts to limit certain types of panhandling

Warner Robins Mayor and Council are trying to pass an ordinance that would limit certain types of panhandling in the city.

City Attorney Jim Elliott says the seven-page ordinance was something the Warner Robins Police Department wanted.

The ordinance says it has become a public safety issue. Earlier this year, police say a panhandler entered a girl's car and intimidated her.

The city is trying to get rid of aggressive panhandling.

“Acting with the attempt to intimidate, other conduct that a reasonable person would regard as threatening or intimidating,” Elliott said explaining the ordinance.

Under the ordinance, aggressive panhandling also includes using obscene language, touching someone without consent and forcing yourself onto someone else. Elliott explained it means after declining, someone cannot continue to follow you, block your passage, or otherwise ‘compel’ you to comply.

The ordinance also prohibits any type of panhandling, aggressive or passive, within 20 feet of bus stops, public parking lots at night, building entrances, ATMs, outdoor seating at restaurants and on streets or highways.

It also outlaws it from medians less than 8 square feet wide or on medians on high traffic or high-speed roadways, meaning Watson Boulevard, Russell Parkway, Houston Lake Road, Highway 96, and Moody Road.

But, it is not legal to ban panhandling entirely.

“It's pretty fundamental first amendment freedom of speech, freedom of expression protections that all of us as Americans enjoy,” Elliott said.

Passive panhandling includes requests for charities, written requests and oral requests that don't become aggressive.

Brevard Hunt has been helping needy families and the homeless at the First United Methodist Church for more than 20 years.

He says panhandling has a bad reputation.

“Because of the personalities that are asking for help they're not very courteous sometimes and people get-- People that donate things get a little irritated with people who demand things,” Hunt said in their food pantry.

Hunt says when people are deserving and thankful about it he understands why they have to panhandle and tries to help them.

He says we all need to be a little more patient and Christian with people in need, but understands why the city wants to end aggressive behavior.

Mayor and Council will read the ordinance for the first time on Monday, November 20 at City Hall. The meeting starts at 5:30p.m.

An ordinance must be read twice, unless the second reading is waved, and then passed by a majority to become effective.

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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