AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s a sign of our times: people gathering on a public roadway asking for money, and some believe it needs to stop.
“We want to help the ones who want to be helped, but the ones who are here just to make money…they need to move on, I think. This puts some teeth in it for law enforcement to kind of help us with that,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.
Commissioner Sean Frantom is pushing for Augusta Commissioners to discuss creating an aggressive panhandling ordinance.
“It wouldn’t be allowed any more at major intersections on public right-of-ways, you can’t be there. We’ve had people hit by cars, we’ve had wrecks from people coming out to get money,” said Commissioner Frantom.
As the homeless population has grown…so has panhandling.
Commissioner Jordan Johnson says any new regulations against panhandling should only target certain areas.
“To pass an ordinance that is blanketed for the entire county, when you have a substantial number of people in need, without putting resources to fill that need…I think is an issue,” said Commissioner Johnson.
Banning panhandling is not a new issue. Two years ago, Augusta was warned it was unconstitutional, but Frantom points to Columbia County which has an ordinance in place.
“Obviously, with our neighboring county implementing this I don’t understand why Richmond County couldn’t implement this as well,” said Frantom.
But there could be opposition and not just on first amendment grounds.
“I will never, and I mean never, support an ordinance that criminalizes poverty,” said Johnson.
But panhandling is a practice some believe needs new regulations.