Police warn of new panhandling rules taking effect Sept. 18

VIDEO: Police hand out cards warning of new panhandling ordinance
Published: Aug. 19, 2015 at 4:58 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2015 at 11:03 PM EDT
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Charleston police began handing out the yellow cards Wednesday. (Photo Source: Live 5)
Charleston police began handing out the yellow cards Wednesday. (Photo Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Beginning Sept. 18, it will be illegal to give money to panhandlers on Charleston streets.

Charleston Police began handing out yellow cards to panhandlers Wednesday to alert them to a new ordinance passed at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

That ordinance prohibits the passing of items to or from the occupant of a vehicle, which would include money given to people on the street, whether panhandling or collecting donations for a charity.

Under the new ordinance, panhandlers will have to move to parking lots to ask for money, or pay the price. The same holds true for drivers, who will be prevented from handing over money.

Police say it's a safety issue.

"Because if someone out there is soliciting funds and runs into traffic and is struck by a motorist, the motorist stops suddenly, there's an accident, so we're just being proactive," Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis said.

According to the card, anyone who violates the ordinance, whether a pedestrian or an occupant of a vehicle, is subject to a fine of up to $1,092 or 30 days in jail.

"This ordinance is intended to provide the free flow of traffic on roadways and promote the health, safety and welfare of the citizens traveling by vehicle or foot in the city," the card states.

"It's gonna hurt me, it's gonna," said homeless veteran Bryant McCulloh who was panhandling on Highway 61 Wednesday afternoon. "The people of Charleston have been very generous." McCulloh did not know about the new ordinance.

Police are not planning to arrest or fine anybody right away. For the next 30 days they will hand out the cards to both panhandlers and drivers, warning them that they will enforce the law beginning Sept. 18.

McCulloh says he will follow the law because he can't afford not to.

"I'm going to have to go to the parking lots," McCulloh said. "I don't have, what is it, $1,092? I don't have that kind of money and I don't want to go to jail."

Firefighters, who have collected donations for charities in intersections will also be affected by the ordinance and will also be forced to move to parking lots, police say.

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