Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon Springs bolsters anti-panhandling law

TARPON SPRINGS — Concerned about an uptick in panhandling and public nuisances, city commissioners unanimously strengthened their rules against solicitation Tuesday night.

Adopted in 2006, the ordinance was tailored to the city's Sponge Docks to deter restaurant workers who often made tourists uncomfortable with aggressive menu marketing.

But with the new ordinance, aggressive begging, soliciting or panhandling in any public place in the city is prohibited on any day after sunset and before sunrise.

Tarpon Springs acting police Chief Robert Kochen said the number of police calls for disorderly intoxication and conduct, trespassing and public urination are up.

Strengthening the ordinance is one prong in an encompassing approach to the city's homelessness problem, he said.

Kochen also wants an officer dedicated to helping those arrested get services such as housing and drug and alcohol treatment.

In addition, Kochen has asked the Shepherd Center, the agency that coordinates many of the services for the city's needy, to start requiring those served at soup kitchens to register.

If someone who receives services from the center continues to get arrested for crimes in the city, Kochen said he wants the Shepherd Center to refuse them further services.

"It's a revolving door when we simply arrest and it's not solving the problem," Kochen said. "We are trying to help get them with counseling and treatment. But they can't continue to thumb their nose at us and not follow our laws. Why should we continue to provide them services?"

Ronald Haddad, the Shepherd Center's board chairman, is empathetic to downtown business owners who have complained of people urinating and defecating on storefronts. But the center's mission is to provide services, he said, and homeless people represent only 5 percent of its clients, which also include the elderly and the poor.

"We are a faith-based organization with 13 churches in the greater Tarpon area," Haddad said. "We feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Denying someone food raises a red flag."

Haddad said registration would be an expensive undertaking. But the outreach effort with a police officer is a step in the right direction, he said.

The Shepherd Center is also creating about 1,000 cards, paid for by the Police Department, that advise tourists to not give money to panhandlers, instead listing local agencies that can assist.

Both Kochen and Haddad said there are a small number of people causing the problem with aggressive begging and panhandling.

"I don't think we are ever going to solve the problem 100 percent, but there are only like 10 that are the real aggressive troublemakers," Haddad said. "If we can get that number down to four or five, then that's progress.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 727-445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

Tarpon Springs bolsters anti-panhandling law 03/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 8:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After huge sinkhole opens, residents weigh future with unease

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — The wood floors creak each time Kendra Denzik dashes inside her darkened home to grab fresh clothes. She can't help but panic when they do.

    Eleven families along Ocean Pines Drive in Land O’Lakes homes are fenced in due to the massive sinkhole from last Friday on Thursday, July 20, 2017. The Doohen’s are among 11 families who had to evacuate from their homes.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Photo gallery: Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    News

    Taylor Payne, 24, and Tom Fornarola, 23, are two of the 23 first-year umpires scattered around the bottom rungs of minor-league baseball this summer. They never met until they were assigned together but quickly developed a strong rapport. Like the players themselves, the two umpires have dreams of reaching the major …

  5. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.