City commissioners take a closer look at panhandling - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City commissioners take a closer look at panhandling

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

During Tuesday's Albany city commission meeting, members considered an ordinance that would ban panhandling.

Commissioner B. J. Fletcher stated she's dealt with this issue personally, and says its hurting area businesses.

Fletcher says many people, including senior citizens, don't return to businesses because they are scared by aggressive panhandlers, who are begging for food and money.

Mayor pro tem John Howard says many of these people are mental patients who have no where to go, and locking them up won't do any good.

City commissioners are considering issuing a warning on a first offense, then a fine or even jail time.

They also want to hold a forum to meet with owners to discuss and hear first hand what they are experiencing.

The owners of Our Daily Bread know first hand the problems that come with panhandlers.

"The problem is when they start hitting our customers and they are going from table to table before we can catch them," says owner Jason Warren.

Albany city commissioner and restaurant owner B.J. Fletcher has had her run ins with panhandlers.

Fletcher is pushing for tougher laws that include jail time.

"They are approaching our small businesses, our seniors, our tax payers out here trying to make a living, and its not right. They talk about their rights, but its time to talk about the tax payers rights," says BJ Fletcher.

Fletcher says it has gotten so bad, they're actually driving away business.

"I have had them to personally call me at my restaurant and say BJ I've enjoyed the meal, but I had someone approach me in the parking lot, I gave them dollars dollars, but I'm not coming back because they scare me," she says.

"We have people that spend a lot of money to rent our building out, for a wedding, baby shower, or something like that and we have vagrants literally try to push through the door after we tell them to stay out," says Warren.

But some city officials think jail time is too extreme.

"I think we need to go back and look at some of the hardcore problems we have and I'm a firm believer that incarcerating a person for panhandling is not the solution," says Mayor Pro Tem Jon Howard.

The comission tabled the item until they can hold a public forum with business owners and get more information.

 

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