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New panhandling ordinance to be considered by Manatee County Commission

Posted at 8:38 AM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 08:38:45-04

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County leaders are meeting today to discuss a potential panhandling ordinance after the community demanded action.

The commission first felt pressure from residents on this issue back in July when a heated interaction between a Bradenton man and a panhandler caught people's attention.

RELATED: Bradenton man fed up with aggressive panhandlers, takes to streets to warn other drivers

Since then, many have expressed their concerns to county leaders.

Now, we’re getting a look at what a panhandling ordinance would look like and why county commissioners consider it to be a significant safety issue.

The county found a 633% increase in serious pedestrian crashes from 2017 to 2018.

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County leaders attribute panhandlers around cars to the increased risk of crashes.

The new ordinance would prohibit panhandling on certain busy roads and medians and wouldn’t allow anyone on the medians unless they’re crossing the street.

The county will also put a focus on services for people needing help.

In a memo, the county’s attorney said the ordinance will likely face scrutiny because of the first amendment but he said it holds up because the ordinance applies to everyone not just panhandlers.

Florida law states that panhandling is a misdemeanor but each municipality can choose whether to enforce the state law.

Hillsborough County, Pasco County, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota already have similar ordinances in place.