With no objections, the DeBary City Council June 1 tentatively approved an ordinance that outlaws panhandling and harassment along streets or sidewalks.
City leaders say they are taking preventive action before panhandling worsens in DeBary.
“One of the reasons I believe we are the safest city is because we are proactive,” City Manager Carmen Rosamonda told the City Council, as he introduced the proposed ordinance. “This ordinance deals with behavior. There are behaviors that we do not want.”
Rosamonda noted that begging is constitutionally protected speech. The city’s ordinance is crafted to curb actions on the part of anyone approaching or asking someone else for money that may be unsafe or may make others feel uncomfortable.
The City Council passed the panhandling ordinance on first reading with a 5-0 vote. It will require a second reading and vote before becoming law.
A memorandum on the proposed ordinance noted:
“DeBary is experiencing an increase in unwanted behavior and dangerous activities within public streets and rights of way. Business owners and residents feel nervous and or threatened by these behaviors and activities,” the background summary noted.
The ordinance prohibits impeding or “unduly interfering with the free and safe flow of pedestrians and vehicular traffic.”
Other key prohibitions in the ordinance are:
— No sitting or standing on a median of less than 3 feet in width, or a median less than 5 feet wide in the case of a roadway with three or more vehicular travel lanes in any one direction
— No one may “occupy a paved travel lane or other portion of a roadway while the traffic is flowing”
— No one may cross a road or street anywhere within 200 feet outside of a marked crosswalk
— No pedestrian may cross at a controlled intersection against the signal lights
— No one is allowed to cross an intersection diagonally
— No pedestrian is allowed to cross a roadway with four or more travel lanes, except in a marked crosswalk
— No person may walk in a roadway with four or more travel lanes, where there are sidewalks
— No one may intentionally block traffic or act so as to cause a driver to take evasive action, such as changing lanes of traffic, or veering onto a swale or approaching a wall or a fence, or causing other pedestrians to leave the sidewalk to avoid being struck by a vehicle
— No person may physically reach inside a vehicle or touch anyone inside a vehicle without the consent of the driver or other occupants.
Also prohibited in the new law:
— Street harassment, which is defined as giving a person the impression or reason to believe he or she may be harmed, or causing “a reasonable person” to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed
— Following someone “for no legitimate purpose after being asked by such person to desist”
— Touching someone without that person’s permission.
Anyone convicted of violating the ordinance may be fined a maximum of $500 and/or sentenced to a maximum of 60 days in jail.
The second and final reading of the panhandling ordinance, as well as a public hearing on it, are scheduled for the DeBary City Council’s Wednesday, June 15, meeting at 6:30 p.m.