By Agrippina Fadel
Drivers may finally get a break from panhandlers approaching their cars on busy streets.
A new Tamarac ordinance prohibits panhandling on all city intersections and once the warning phase is over on October 25, blocking traffic and pedestrians to aggressively panhandle will become an arrestable offense.
The city commission approved the ordinance at its August 25 meeting, amending the ordinance adopted in 2015, which only prohibited panhandling on the intersections of Commercial Boulevard, Nob Hill Road, McNab Road, Pine Island, and University Drive — or within 200 feet from them.
Even those limited restrictions were not enforced to the satisfaction of the residents, who voiced their complaints on Facebook.
Sharon Arnold of Tamarac doesn’t believe stopping panhandling on the busy streets is possible. “The worst part is that they tend to leave all their garbage behind. I think we as a society need to do better with mental health and alcohol and drug rehabilitation.”
The situation is changing, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office Tamarac District is preparing panhandlers for the new ordinance said Deputy Jennifer Marion, who works in crime prevention and community outreach. She said they will first offer resources to the individuals out on the roadways; let them know about the new ordinance, and warn them.
After the second phase begins, panhandlers will be arrested if they are still aggressively panhandling on the roads and blocking traffic.
“We want to make sure everyone is safe – motorists, Tamarac residents, and panhandlers themselves,” she said.
Marion explained that officers offer a lot of resources to the panhandlers and homeless, giving out homeless outreach brochures with information about where to take a shower, find a feeding location, rehab, or a shelter. They also explain how to find social security offices or get a driver’s license and where they can get their mail delivered.
Deputies transport panhandlers to the shelter or a detox facility if they choose to go.
Panhandling is often a drug problem but not always a homeless issue, said Marion. Some panhandlers have homes and even other jobs. Deputies approach panhandlers on the roads and ask about their problems and why they are out on the street. If they have a drug or alcohol problem, officers ask if they need to go into a facility to help them detox.
“If they say: “no, I’m not interested, I just want to be out here and make money,” we tell them there is the new city ordinance now that states you can’t be in the roadway aggressively panhandling. If we come back here after the warning stage, you will be arrested for the violation of that ordinance,” added Marion.
BSO wants to arrest panhandlers as a last resort, so their goal proactively warn them.
Marion added that many Tamarac residents don’t realize that eastbound and northbound lights of Commercial and University intersection geographically belong to Lauderhill, so the Tamarac ordinance will not be enforceable there.
“They think all four corners are ours,” she said. “We get calls about panhandling there, but there is not much we can do.”
The new ordinance does not limit Tamarac residents’ constitutional right to beg, panhandle, or solicit funds but prohibits it on busy roads and intersections when panhandlers block traffic and intimidate drivers and pedestrians.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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