Does Asbury Park’s ‘aggressive panhanding’ ban create more problems?
ASBURY PARK — A ban on "aggressive" panhandling has gone into effect in a Jersey Shore city with mixed reaction.
The ordinance, adopted by the City Council on Sept. 26 by a unanimous vote of all members present, went into effect last week.
Cities cannot legally ban panhandling outright because it is considered constitutionally protected free speech.
Asbury Park said the need for such a rule was due to an "increase in aggressive panhandling" that "has become extremely disturbing and disruptive to residents and businesses and has contributed not only to the loss of access to and enjoyment of public places, but also to an enhanced sense of fear, intimidation and disorder," according to the ordinance.
Councilman Jesse Kendle told NJ.com that the panhandlers are "embarrassing" and something that visitors to the city don't want to deal with.
Marilyn Schlossbach, owner of the Langosta Lounge and Pop's Lounge and who also runs the nonprofit Food For Thought By The Sea, takes a humanitarian approach to the issue.
"Somebody asking for money on the street can be a nuisance and could also be alcoholic but they may also have a bigger problem that we're not addressing" such as mental illness or addiction, she said.
Schlossbach is skeptical that the fines will be a deterrent.
"To slap a $200 fine on somebody who doesn't have enough money to buy a beer, I don't know how you'll solve that problem. You'll clog up the court system."
She is also critical of cutbacks of social services to get free medication or get a place to sleep.
"I don't know what the answer is. I just see the way society now tries to solve problems in a way that they don't think about 'what will this do to our community.'"
Food For Thought By The Sea hosts free community dinners at the Langosta at Thanksgiving, Christmas and East
The ordinance allows people to still be able to "solicit, picket, protest or engage in other constitutionally protected speech or activity" but it can no longer be done in a way that could be perceived as threatening. This includes making a person fear bodily harm, damage or loss of property, feel intimidated or suffer "inconvenience, annoyance or alarm."
The law also prohibits panhandlers from blocking pedestrians or touching them.
The ordinance also prohibits panhandling near a bank or ATM.