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Delray Beach dealing with aggressive panhandling

'People want to be comfortable'
Posted at 11:20 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 23:20:44-05

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — The city of Delray Beach has an aggressive panhandling problem. It's a dilemma for local businesses like Cafe Luca Rosa that they deal with regularly.

"Because we have a lot of outside dining, al fresco dining, they'll come up and say, 'Hey, can I have some money?' And people will say, 'No, I'm not giving you money,'" Manager Jared Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the panhandling happens daily.

"People want to be comfortable and, especially in a time like this, they're coming sometimes from places that have been shut down and areas that are locked down. They come here and want to relax," he said.

The city said panhandlers have cursed out people, threatened visitors and blocked the path of people they've solicited money from.

Wednesday afternoon, the City Commission cleared the first hurdle in implementing a new ordinance. An ordinance that also cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a concern and the need to prevent spreading the virus.

"You seem to think this ordinance is really going to be really good if it includes the after dark portion," Deputy Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson said.

Among the potential restrictions include no panhandling after dark, and banning panhandling within 20 feet of a restaurant, bus or trolley stop, ATM, or any parking lot or parking meter.

Diana Bates said it sounds like a good move.

"I feel bad for the people that are in the position that has to panhandle, but at the same time, I think the predominance of the people here would feel more comfortable if it didn't happen at night," she said.

Jenkins said he's concerned about the impact on tourism.

"You want people to come here. It's the lifeblood of our city," he said.

Commissioners will take up the second reading of the new ordinance Feb. 18. That meeting will allow the public to comment on the issue.