Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough to look for ways to strengthen anti-panhandling law

TAMPA — Hillsborough County already has a law on the books that makes it a misdemeanor to panhandle, seek donations or do business on road medians and street corners.

Still, Commissioner Mark Sharpe asked county officials Wednesday to look for ways to strengthen the law and explore ways to get Hillsborough's three cities to adopt the same measure. He got unanimous support from the rest of the board.

"Everyone recognizes the problem has gotten worse," Sharpe said after the vote. "What we have isn't working."

Sharpe's call to arms comes nearly two months after St. Petersburg adopted tough measures banning solicitations along many major roadways and began making arrests after it went into effect June 13. The law applies not only to those pleading for money, but to newspaper hawkers and people raising money for charity.

The St. Petersburg Times, which uses independent contractors to sell Sunday newspapers at major intersections, initially sued in an effort to overturn the law on First Amendment grounds. The complaint was withdrawn after an initial unfavorable ruling.

Reports since the St. Petersburg law was enacted have suggested some homeless people and others in need have migrated across Tampa Bay, where the rules are less stringent — at least in Tampa.

Tampa allows roadway solicitations, so long as those doing business don't impede traffic. Solicitors are required to wear brightly colored safety vests.

Hillsborough County has a stricter ordinance than St. Petersburg, banning solicitations within 4 feet of any road. Tampa City Council member Joseph Caetano has pushed to adopt a similar rule but has failed to win support.

Sheriff's Maj. Clyde Eisenberg said violators typically are given one warning and then arrested on a second offense. He said the agency takes the matter seriously.

In fact, the agency recently assigned four deputies to a six-week operation focused on roadway solicitations. He said he believes the number of people hitting up motorists has increased sharply in the past 18 months.

"We regularly have complaints from citizens," he said.

Sharpe's proposal requests that interim County Administrator Mike Merrill meet with city officials, law enforcement, charity groups known for roadway fund-raising, and homeless advocates to develop a unified response.

Sharpe said he is open to suggestions that would accommodate charities, perhaps assisting in their fundraising in other ways. He also said has a compassion for those who have fallen on hard times. The county, he added, needs to look for better ways to get them the help they need.

"I think everyone agrees, including the ACLU, that a street corner is not the proper place for those services to be provided," he said.

In other action, the board:

• Voted unanimously to support renaming the College Hill Library in central Tampa after C. Blythe Andrews Jr., the former publisher of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper, who died in January.

• Scheduled an Aug. 18 public hearing to consider a ballot proposal to redefine the work of the county's internal performance auditor.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough to look for ways to strengthen anti-panhandling law 08/04/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco sheriff's team of volunteer Jeep drivers go where few dare

    Public Safety

    Times Staff Writer

    He got the text in the middle of treating patients. He was needed in the morning — and so was his dark blue 2002 Jeep Wrangler.

    The Pasco County Sheriff's Office's newly-formed Volunteer Jeep Search and Rescue Unit stops for a moment to wait for fellow Jeep drivers to catch up during a mock search-and-rescue exercise and off-road training in Shady Hills in June. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  2. What you need to know for Friday, July 28


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Jermaine Ferguson takes the $5 entry fee from a visitor at Fort De Soto Park on Wednesday. Pasco County has done away with recession era park fees. What about Pinellas and Hillsborough counties? [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. The Killers coming to Hard Rock Live in Orlando


    They're reliable festival headliners, and they're about to embark on a North American arena tour.

    The KIllers
  4. Back to School 2017: What you need to know


    With the start of classes less than three weeks away, the Tampa Bay Times' back-to-school special report debuts today.

    The Times' annual back-to-school coverage debuts today with information families can use to start the new year. [Times files]
  5. Hillsborough and Pinellas to keep park entry fees, while Pasco makes them free again

    Local Government

    One thing stands between Mark Crawford and the mackerel schooling in the topaz saltwater around the pier at Fort De Soto Park: a toll booth. And even if the lady inside is as sweet as orange blossom honey, she still wants his five dollars.

    Jermaine Ferguson takes the $5 entry fee from a visitor at Fort De Soto Park on Wednesday. Pasco County has done away with recession era park fees, but Hillsborough and Pinellas county plan to continue to charge people to use parks like Fort De Soto and Lettuce Lake Park. LARA CERRI   |   Times