With the recent troubles of the ‘Tent Cities’ all over Charlotte, a need for a panhandling ordinance that will be actively enforced is important. Out of the hundreds of people experiencing homelessness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of them had the option to get back on their feet with the city’s help.
Despite the free handout, a small amount of those people actually took the offer. This means a lot more people will be in search of somewhere to go on the streets ahead of warmer weather in the summer. If the Charlotte City Council does nothing to address this problem, get ready for the street corner begging to get a lot worse, especially when people leave from their temporary hotel stay.
Charlotte is not the only major city facing these same set of issues. Others such as Dallas, Chicago, and Miami have each pieced together their own set of ordinances to combat the issue of aggressive panhandling. In recent years, Charlotte has asked residents to stop contributing to those asking for money. But there hasn’t been much progress to curb the beggars.
CMPD Deputy Chief Coerte Voorhees stated that panhandling occurs in all parts of the City and as free speech, it’s protected by the First Amendment. He reported that calls related to loitering for money increased by 3% from 2018 to 2019, resulting in a total of 5,476 calls. CMPD’s enforcement response has been to issue a citation, make an arrest or give a verbal warning when it becomes aggressive panhandling.
Out of those calls, CMPD issued 209 citations for panhandling in 2019, and 55% of those cases were dismissed. There is a projected dismissal rate of 70% when pending cases are factored in. CMPD has found that arresting individuals provides exposure to services like mental health while the individuals are detained. The arrest may also allow CMPD to find family members of the individual to provide care to the individual.