February 25, 2005
A bill passed overwhelmingly in the General Assembly, and just has to be signed by Governor Warner before becoming a law, that would give localities such as Albemarle county the authority to outlaw panhandlers.
Two years ago Lt. Greg Jenkins, from the Albemarle Police Department, started getting phone calls from the public concerned about panhandlers. "They have these individuals knocking on the window, asking for handouts. It's intimidating to the female motor public. It's intimidating to their children. We had complaints from even the male motoring public," said Jenkins.
Jenkins decided to do something about it.
He went to Delegate Rob Bell (R-58th) and told him about the hazard. In current legislation, cities such as Charlottesville can create their own ordinances to combat panhandling, but counties can't. The bill Bell introduced would give the county the authority to combat what they see as a safety hazard.
"The bill was brought to me by the local police because they could see people panhandling, and they were afraid people would be dashing out into the roads and get hurt and there wasn't really anything they could do about that. So this bills allows them to do something about it," said Bell.
But even if Governor Warner does sign the bill, the county still has some things the figure out before they pass an ordinance. "We don't have anything that's ready to go once we get this legal authority," said Albemarle county spokesperson Lee Catlin. "So still there's some discussion that needs to happen. We need to find out exactly what the situation is that we need to control and then go about putting that into an ordinance."
And don't worry, this doesn't mean it's the end to Girl Scout cookies. Legitimate groups, such as the Girl Scouts, just have to get a permit before trying to sell those cookies.