AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – People trying to get money from drivers whose cars are stopped on right of ways is something Augusta leaders want to stop.
“This is something that is not going away, it’s increasing, the community is watching it, the community wants action,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.
What the community is seeing is panhandling at major gateways into Augusta.
Tourism officials are telling commissioners this is impacting businesses and the image of the city.
“They were seeing people cancel reservations and they were saying they were cancelling their reservations because of the perception of crime, because they had a bad arrival experience into that area,” said Jennifer Bowen of Destination Augusta.
Many of those on right of ways panhandling carry signs that read homeless, but the Sheriff’s Office says that’s not the case.
“Everybody thinks the panhandlers that are out at these intersections or downtown are homeless 99% percent of these folks who are doing this panhandling are not homeless,” said Lieutenant Robbie Silas.
Some commissioners are pushing Augusta to adopt what Columbia County has enacted, banning panhandling on most public property, but the city attorney’s office is tossing cold water on following Columbia County’s lead.
“The reason for that is because most of the Columbia County ordinance is unconstitutional under federal law,” said Senior Staff Attorney Sam Meller.
“Yeah, that’s what we heard. Disappointing attorneys seeing different things. I find it hard to believe Columbia County would put something in unconstitutional, but we move on,” said Commissioner Frantom.
City leaders are requesting the law department review other ordinances from Charleston and Dublin, Georgia because they say what is in place now isn’t addressing the problem.