ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Augustine police say panhandlers are mostly staying away after the city’s panhandling ordinance took effect one year ago.
Business owners and locals were worried people asking for money would hurt tourism, so the city banned panhandling near businesses, bus stops, parking lots and a number of other places. The ordinance prohibits people from asking for money within 20 feet of a business.
Since the ordinance went into effect last year on April 5, police have issued a total of 57 citations. They’ve made 17 arrests. And 18 out of 37 people who were cited had multiple violations.
St. George Street in historic St. Augustine was a popular spot for people to make an extra penny by simply putting up a sign and waiting. Since the ordinance passed, several people up and down St. George Street said things have gotten better. Others said it’s still the same.
“You can make a lot of money out here,” said Troy Strawder, who works at a local business. “We still have the same group up and down.”
“It’s slowed down somewhat but it’s hard. When you’ve got the tourists and they’ve got a little extra money in their pocket, it’s just easy to drop it in the tin can. But, go find a job,” said Pat Auman, a St. Augustine visitor.
Some said there needs to be stricter enforcement and public outreach.
There was a campaign last year where businesses posted signs telling people ways they can help other than giving money. One example is donating to a local shelter.