Panhandling Problem: Summit County Cracks Down

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BATH TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Summit County leaders have passed a new law which cracks down on the growing problem of panhandling.

Townships have seen a significant rise in the activity after cities like Fairlawn and Akron passed their own panhandling ordinances.

"The first time you see them, you give them money, but I see them there all day, every day," said Rose Kuhel, Summit County resident.

The county council first attempted to pass a law last summer but it included some controversial measures like requiring the "beggars" to register, get a license and wear orange safety vests.

The new law which passed Monday does not require those actions but does significantly control where and how people can panhandle in the townships.

"It was motivated principally by resident concerns over the issue of safety," said Vito Sinopoli, Bath Twp. administrator.

Mr. Sinopoli said, the law addresses both "passive" and "aggressive" panhandling: those who sit with a sign and those who attempt to block others, touch, threaten or intimidate residents.

"I had some guy ask me for money and I said I don't have any and he started cussing me out," said Kuhel.

Bath Twp. has also recently had police calls where panhandlers have been fighting amongst each other.

Mr. Sinopoli said, a man and woman just got into a scuffle over a street corner Tuesday, and officers were needed to break it up.

According to the law, panhandlers can no longer engage in the act of panhandling within 25 feet of shopping plazas, restaurants, ATMs, businesses, churches, libraries, bus stops, schools, intersections or crosswalks.

Violations are minor misdemeanors punishable by a $100 or less fine for each offense.

If found guilty of aggressive panhandling, the perpetrator faces a $250 fine, 30 days in jail or both.

County leaders said the goal is not to harm people who may be down on their luck but to make the county and townships safer.

"My hope is for those truly in need of help. We can direct them to the appropriate resources to provide them the greatest assistance," said Sinopoli.

Police will not be ticketing panhandlers immediately. For the next month or so they will just be informing and warning panhandlers about the new law.

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