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Augusta city leaders look to expand panhandling ordinance

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 8:02 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - If you’ve been to downtown Augusta maybe you’ve been pressured by someone on the streets for money and you’re not alone. Now city leaders say they want to review their panhandling ordinance. It’s been in effect for 15 years but now they’re looking to expand it.

Brent Slagle owns a business along Broad Street and knows what panhandling looks like all too well.

“It’s a daily occurrence for us. Three to four times a day,” he said.

He says when it comes to his customers that’s where he draws the line.

“We handle it OK as far as a business, however, our customers are approached regularly and that we don’t appreciate,” said Slagle.

Augusta Commissioner Ben Hasan wants the ordinance reviewed. The current one covers boundaries around Broad Street and the Armstrong Galleria. Hasan wants to expand it possibly across Richmond County.

“It would give the sheriff’s department as well as the marshal’s department to speak to those persons in the panhandling business to move on and also ask them to remove their debris,” said Commissioner Ben Hasan, District 6.

He says panhandling and homelessness can sometimes correlate so having a plan to help those in need is a must moving forward.

“We get a chance to see what are their situations, law enforcement will, the marshal will, and at that time we can direct them to where they can get some services at if that’s the case that they are having,” said Commissioner Hasan.

Slagle says he does his part to help panhandlers by offering food and drinks but that doesn’t always work.

“90% of the time what we offer isn’t good enough so it’s just all about getting the money and when it comes to that we send them on their way and call dispatch,” he said.

Slagle did say law enforcement checks in with them on a weekly basis to see if they’ve experienced any problems. He says more manpower is needed to really fix the issue.

In the new ordinance, Commissioner Hasan said the language will also be reviewed. The current ordinance speaks to “aggressive panhandlers” people who are threatening or blocking someone’s path. We can expect a completed draft of the ordinance and a vote no later than August.

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