Local reaction to new panhandling ordinance

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SARASOTA, FL. - Sarasota city streets will be free of panhandlers very soon, after city commissioners passed an ordinance making it illegal to hold signs asking for money.

So what do you think? Did the panhandlers interfere with your commute?

Many people we talked to say they see no reason for anyone to be on the streets asking for money, and they agree with the commissioners’ decision to ban panhandling.

The city of Sarasota had an ordinance in place previously that banned panhandling, but it ended in December and the city's attorney feared it may be unconstitutional.

After an officer arrested a man for panhandling in December, the ACLU sued the city and filed an injunction, so for 60 days officers couldn't make arrests or issue citations to anyone on the street asking for money.

But now that the injunction is lifted, and with a new ordinance in place, panhandling on certain major city streets is illegal once again.

The new law is unjust because you don't really do anything but panhandle. We don't cause any traffic jams or anything like that. Everything's been running smoother since the law was enforced,” says Jason.

They shouldn't be having signs anyways. They're not selling anything. They're looking for free money. Get a job,” says Mark Ponte.

“They had too much panhandling going on like every corner I went by. There was somebody, not just one, but two or three people holding signs, asking for money, and I got a job and it's hard, so maybe they should go get a job too. That's what I think,” says Mike Hoy.

Now, an attorney will meet with police to discuss the new ordinance and enforcement.

In an effort to educate and encourage compliance of the new ordinance, message boards will be used to inform the public. The message board will be placed in heavy traffic areas this week and into the weekend. Today, April 24, 2013, the message board will be placed at US 41 and Gulf Stream Ave.

There are many helpful resources in Sarasota that are willing to reach out and help anyone with issues or problems. We encourage those in need of assistance to seek responsible agencies or call 308-HELP and speak to someone who may be able to help.