• Man arrested as Melbourne police crack down on aggressive panhandling


    MELBOURNE, Fla. - Melbourne police have made their first arrest under the city's new panhandling ordinance. Police said the man they arrested walked into traffic looking for cash.
    Panhandling is banned in a large area of downtown Melbourne and aggressive panhandling isn't allowed anywhere in the city.
    According to police, Edward Band was standing in the middle of Strawbridge Avenue Wednesday banging on car windows and reaching into vehicles.
    On Thursday Band saw a judge from the confines of the Brevard County Jail. 
    Some drivers called 911.
    "There's a drunk, aggressive panhandler in the middle of the street," a 911 caller said.
    "OK, is he causing an emergency that you're calling about, sir?" the dispatcher asked the caller. "You're on 911."
    "He's about, he's about to get run over," said the caller.
    Melbourne's aggressive-panhandling ordinances ban panhandling of any kind anywhere in the downtown exclusion zone.  And aggressive panhandling is banned citywide, including areas like bathrooms and city-owned garages.
    "This is not to infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights to say what they want to say what they want with a sign, this is when it impedes public safety," said Commander Vince Pryce with the Melbourne Police Department.
    George Taylor with National Veterans Homeless Support said he still takes issue with the ordinances. He said panhandling is freedom of speech.
    "Every action has a reaction, so that reaction is more taxpayer money you're going to inflate the jail," said Taylor. "You're going to inflate the judicial system, and the person panhandling doesn't have a dollar."
    Between June and July Melbourne police said they saw a 14 percent drop in panhandling complaints but said it's too early to say of the drop is a result of the  ordinances.

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