Jacksonville City Council member Al Ferraro is pushing back against pushy panhandlers, agitating for action on a recurrent “problem throughout the city” that he recently spotlighted.
“I’ve had a lot of folks who have come to me concerned about people coming up and pulling on door handles at intersections asking for money,” Ferraro said Monday, noting that children are being enlisted.
“I don’t know if these kids actually belong to the people that they are with,” Ferraro said, citing other concerns, including “visibility.”
He also noted there are limitations regarding “signage and different things” on state, federal, and local roads, adding another level of challenge for policymakers.
Republican Kevin Carrico voiced concerns and a willingness to “join the fight” and “protect our citizens while being sensitive to our citizens in greatest need.”
“It’s a citywide issue,” Carrico said, describing it as prevalent on the Southside. “It does impact safety.”
Carrico wondered if one child he saw panhandling was “out there against her will,” echoing Ferraro’s concerns that the minors involved lack legitimate familial relationships with adults panhandling with them.
Republican Michael Boylan was also on hand to offer support, saying he was “anxious” for movement on the issue.
Yet any timeline may be protracted.
A representative from the Office of General Counsel noted that court challenges often targeted panhandling bans and asserted her eagerness to avoid a suit in federal court.
“Just one word in an ordinance can make it possibly unconstitutional,” she said, stressing the challenge of crafting this legislation, which exists now in “rough draft” form.
A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office representative noted the importance of “protecting people’s rights, including those panhandling.”
“We really want to do this right instead of fast … measuring twice and cutting once, so to speak,” he said.
Ferraro returned to the issue of panhandling minors, with the JSO representative suggesting there was little that they could do to parents or adults except for potential “child abuse” or “child endangerment” charges.
“If we see a child out there,” Ferraro confirmed, “we should report it.”