Warner Robins City council passes panhandling ordinance

WARNER ROBINS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – If you’ve ever been out shopping, you may have been approached once or twice by a person on the street asking for money.

“Mostly it’s in the retail areas where you’re seeing the shopping plaza strips down Carl Vinson and Watson and even by the Walmarts and Targets,” said Police Chief Brett Evans.

Panhandling is now against the law in the city of Warner Robins.

“It’s deterring a lot of businesses because of people loitering outside of their business–people coming up to customers for money,” said Councilman Clifford Holmes

“We’ve had a lot of complaints from the citizens about panhandling in Warner Robins. Actually, panhandling has become a lot more aggressive,” Evans added.

He says it’s been a problem in Warner Robins for years, but within the last three it’s gotten even worse.

“The difference between somebody standing by the side of the road peacefully with a sign requesting help or needing work is one thing–but the aggressive(ness) is where they’re approaching people either inside their cars or as their pulling up to gas pumps or the entrances and exits at food stores,” Evans said.

That aggressive style of panhandling Councilman Clifford Holmes says could be detrimental to businesses in the area.

“I’m particularly concerned for our female population. I know I tell my wife ‘don’t go to this store, don’t go to that store’,” he explained.

Not to mention, it’s an issue of safety for shoppers and panhandlers alike. “I’m just worried because everybody might not take ‘no’ and leave it there. It might get physical,” Holmes said.

“A lot of people are apprehensive these days about being approached anyway. So, even if somebody’s intent was completely innocent just being approached has now become problematic,” said Evans.

Evans says moving forward they hope to see a curb in the number of calls they get about aggressive panhandling.

Just a few months ago, a young woman in Warner Robins was approached by a panhandler who went from asking her for help to forcing her to drive him around in her car. Avoiding potentially dangerous situations like that one is their biggest concern.

Categories: Houston County, Local News

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