An ordinance adopted by the Pasco County Commission aims to halt solicitation by panhandlers — by making it unlawful for pedestrians and motorists to physically interact, unless a vehicle is parked.
The ordinance is patterned after one adopted in Lee County, and Pasco county board members said it’s needed to reduce safety hazards on county roads.
Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano applauded Lee County for finding a solution to the issue of panhandling, and he thanked Senior Assistant County Attorney Patrick Moore for handling the legal work to bring the ordinance forward.
Mariano repeatedly has said it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
“You hear some of them talking about making $600 a day, doing it.
“One watched some guy finish for the day. He got through with his panhandling, got into his new Cadillac and went away,” Mariano said.
“When the people know they can’t do business in the middle of the right of way, I think they stop,” Mariano said.
He added that when the source of the money goes away, “I think this problem will get eliminated a lot quicker.”
According to Moore, from the county attorney’s office: “What this ordinance does, regardless of the reason why someone is in the road, or why they’re in the median, or interacting with vehicles, it’s dangerous. Regardless of the reason of that occurring, it (the ordinance) makes it prohibited.”
Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick said it needs to be addressed to improve safety.
She noted that of the county’s top 10 most dangerous intersections for pedestrians and bicyclists, six are on U.S. 19.
The U.S. 19 corridor has been notorious for the number of panhandlers that congregate there, according to testimony offered by commissioners during previous discussions relating to panhandling.
Commissioner Mike Moore noted that when he joined the board, the problem was predominantly in West Pasco, but it since has spread into Land O’ Lakes, Lutz and Wesley Chapel.
Commissioner Ron Oakley said panhandling isn’t a big issue in East Pasco, but he joined his colleagues in approving the ordinance because he thinks it is needed to address the problem in other parts of the county.
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said, “I’m hoping that this ordinance can help stop the tragic things that are happening out on our roadways.”
She told her colleagues that recently she was driving home along U.S. 19, at night, and could barely see a woman, who was dressed in dark clothing, walking along the median.
Mariano brought a video to show board members panhandlers out in the road. There was a glitch on the video, but board members didn’t seem to need to see it, to understand there’s a problem.
Moore, from the county attorney’s office, said the new ordinance prohibits the stopping or standing by pedestrians in a median, and also prohibits the physical interactions between a pedestrian and an occupant of a motor vehicle that is not legally parked.
The regulations also prohibit the commercial use of public rights of way.
Any person found in violation must cease the activity and may be issued a citation punishable by a fine not to exceed $500, according to the ordinance.
Each action in violation of a provision of this chapter shall constitute a separate offense. Issuance of a citation does not preclude an action for injunction, issuance of a trespass warning where authorized, or any other legal remedy available to Pasco County, the ordinance adds.
The board unanimously adopted the new regulations at its Feb. 22 meeting.
The ordinance must be filed by the clerk to the board to the Department of State, within 10 days of its adoption. It takes effect upon that filing.
Published March 02, 2022