Monday, April 17, 2017

The Insanity of Fining A Panhandler...Only in Pensacola

Last week the Pensacola City Council went to a new level of insanity in passing a panhandling ordinance.  According to the PNJ:

"A law enforcement officer would have the authority to issue citations to those caught soliciting donations. A first offense would levy a $50 fine, a second $100, a third $200 and all additional citations would hit offenders with $400 fines. The officer could also opt not to deliver a citation and instead direct the panhandler to local services meant to assist the poor.

Those opposing a citation would run the risk of a county court imposing a maximum fine of $500. No violations of the measure would carry jail time."

Link to PNJ article

Stop and think about this!  Fining someone begging for money $50.  Jail never possible but the fines increase. Insanity!

Has anyone heard the phrase you can't get blood from a turnip?

PPD should just tear out the pink copy and throw it in the nearest trash can.

More questions for the esteemed Council:
  • If a guy is begging for he gonna pay a $50 fine?
  • Do you spend more money sending unpaid citations to collections?
  • What address do you put on the citation if they are homeless... front doorway of Jewelers Trade?
  • Who keeps track of all these citations?  
  • Is Pam Childers to bill the City for the clogged artery of uncollectible fines?
Why not just make the panhandler empty his pockets and seize his money, Gestapo?

By the way...If Peacock stops you to ask for a donation to his charity on Palafox...Call a cop and have him fined.


CJ Lewis said...

There are five laws already on the books that regulate panhandling/solicitation/ begging - one city law, two county laws (that apply inside city laws) and two state laws. The laws mostly regulate unsafe and aggressive panhandling/solicitation/ begging but some other activities are regulated too. The new law proposed by the DIB takes the regulation of conduct to a new level seeking to regulate "passive" conduct, making illegal in one part of the DIB District what is legal citywide. The DIB laws use of the word "passively" seems where the legal conflict will be fought in the federal court. It also seems a slippery slope because no one knows what other "passive" conduct the DIB will next seek to regulate on city sidewalks. To date, I have not heard anyone describe how often the existing laws are enforced and if not why not. Looking at the letter of the laws, there does seem to be incidents of aggressive and unsafe panhandling that should be stopped. Downtown merchants and residents do describe such behavior. When it happens, what do they do if anything? The Pensacola Police Department already is overstretched to deal with serious crime. I think the most effective approach and one that the DIB could put in force immediately is for the DIB to hire off-duty PPD Officers to enforce the existing laws on the dates, at the times and in the places where there is a trend of bad conduct. Naturally, the DIB Board does not want to use its own money to pay for this focused service but if you ask most property owners in the DIB I think they would say that enforcing these laws is a high priority to them. In this case, we do have a problem. Rather than deal with the problem to include actively enforcing the laws on the books, the City Council instead wants to add another law, a law that will be even harder to enforce than the existing laws. In my opinion, the smart approach is to review all existing laws, ask PPD Officers how they can best be enforced and then replace the city's existing Panhandling Ordinance with one law that applies citywide and that is written in English not legalese. I assume that the City Council will instead rubberstamp the new law the DIB has put before it. Because the new law has a very small jurisdiction within only part of the DIB District, the law should include a provision that makes its enforcement the responsibility of the DIB. PPD Officers should not be taken off patrol duty in the city's neighborhoods to enforce a DIB law that has such limited application. If the DIB claims poverty, its "electors" (property owners) can increase the millage rate they impose upon themselves to pay for enhanced law enforcement support.

Fed up with Pensacola said...

Have they ever stopped and wondered why there are so many homeless?

Anonymous said...

Have the DIB Board members or the City council members ever taken the time to speak with the homeless and ask them why they are asking for money? I have. It costs $10 a night to stay at the Salvation Army. So think about that when it's cold in the winter and when it's raining while you are tucked away safely in your beds.

Anonymous said...

Those damn homeless should know better than to demand freebies from citizens. Who do they think they are?!! The Levins?

Anonymous said...

recognizing there is a difference between panhandling and being homeless.... one big issue is that we don't have "wet" facilities in this area - IE existing facilities you can't be intoxicated or high. Having wet facilities gets them off the street and provides an opportunity for intervention. It does require a very different level of structure/staff for that population, but still a key element in the continuum / tool box for addressing homelessness.