NEW PORT RICHEY — Panhandlers and salespeople who won't take no for an answer may soon get a visit from police as city leaders have passed a new law against aggressive solicitation.
City Council members passed the ordinance Tuesday evening after police Chief Jeffrey Harrington reported an increase of aggressive panhandling. The ordinance passed unanimously.
The ordinance is modeled after a Tampa measure, said interim deputy city attorney Susan Churuti. "It's working well for them," she said.
The ordinance bans anyone from continuing to beg for money after getting a "negative response to an initial demand." It also bans blocking the passage of anyone on foot, bicycle, wheelchair or motor vehicle while asking for money.
New Port Richey already has a measure on the books that bans panhandling "within any street, highway or road right-of-way," and within 200 feet of the center of any intersection in the city.
While the new ordinance is an effort to deal with panhandling in the city, it also applies to salespeople and anyone seeking charitable contributions. The ordinance outlaws "threatening, intimidating, or harassing behavior for the purpose of solicitation."
Harrington has said punishment for violating the new ordinance will start with citations, although he first promised an educational phase to inform the public on the new rules.
No one spoke against the measure, but a local pastor who works with the homeless praised Harrington's effort to bring the panhandling problem to the council. Pastor Mike Glass, who provides homeless outreach programs through Impact Family Church, said he has seen aggressive panhandling that can strike fear into residents, which leads to misunderstanding.
"I cannot agree with this more," he told the council.
Council member Bob Langford said the measure is about protecting the public.
"It has nothing against the homeless," Langford said.