Sanford leaders move forward with ordinance to regulate aggressive panhandling

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SANFORD, Fla. - Sanford leaders tentatively approved an ordinance that will regulate a growing panhandling problem in the city.

City commissioners discussed an ordinance Monday night that would prohibit aggressive panhandling throughout the city. The ordinance passed during the first reading and will be up for a second vote on September 8.

Aggessive panhandling has become so bad in Sanford, many people have a personal story about their experience, including the police chief.

"My wife was in line at the McDonald's," Chief Cecil Smith said. "She's in the drive-thru, waiting for her food, and an individual approaches her. She tells him, 'No.' He gets upset, and she has to roll her window up and drive back around to get her food."

But what the panhandler did to Smith's wife is currently legal in Sanford because there's no ordinance regulating the issue. Leaders said they don't want aggressive panhandling to drive away visitors.

The ordinance that will be voted on Monday night would give police the ability to fine or arrest aggressive panhandlers.

"If it alarms you and puts you in fear of a battery or it makes you feel uneasy, the smart thing to do is pick up the phone and call," said Smith.

A similar ordinance that was proposed a few years ago never got off the ground and was seen as targeting the homeless.

But officials said the ordinance only addresses the behavior of a panhandler and does not criminalize homelessness.

Smith said he hopes to tackle some of the other issues involving the homeless in a separate ordinance.

"We've had homeless who have defecated, marked up businesses, placed people in fear," said Smith.

Eyewitness News asked Smith how they will manage to collect fines from people already begging for money. He said it would be up to the court system.