Summerville Town Council passes first reading on panhandler ordinance

Summerville Town Council passes first reading on panhandler ordinance

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Summerville Town Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to establish rules when it comes to peddlers, charitable solicitors, street musicians, and panhandlers.

This comes after several businesses and residents signed a petition in order to deal with the amount of panhandling in the downtown area.

One business owner said the issue is putting his customers and others at risk.

"They just barge in and start going table to table," said Cuppa Manna Café owner Mike Taylor. "So [they're] fairly aggressive."

Taylor said he's dealt with panhandlers several times over the last three to four months in his café in Hutchinson Square.

He is just one of several business owners who signed the petition asking for something to be done.

"Some of the shop owners I've talked to do not feel safe with these gentlemen coming around, using intimidation tactics," he said. "Police say they're not able to do anything about it, so hopefully that gets addressed [at the council meeting]."

Taylor went on to say how these panhandlers, who are usually not from Summerville, have come into his shop and demanded money from his customers.

"[They would] start harassing our customers and sometimes become belligerent," he said. "I've sometimes had to chase them out a couple of times."

"That would be a problem," added Melisa Beaudry, of Summerville. "I would be offended by that."

The proposed ordinance will look at curbing panhandling and soliciting to keep local residents safe.

The proposal would prohibit blocking public streets and sidewalks and approaching moving vehicles. It would also prohibit soliciting on private property.

It would also restrict where and when street musicians can perform and where charities can ask for donations.

"I wouldn't want to stop at a red light and have panhandlers coming up to my car, trying to collect for things, no that would bother me," Beaudry said. "I don't like that, but someone who is performing, absolutely, I would stop and give him my money."

Businesses owners said most of the time the issues are happening right around festivals and events that are held in the area.

Taylor hopes the council will take the safety of everyone under strong consideration.

If the ordinance is passed, anyone who violates it could be charged with a misdemeanor.

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