The Warner Robins City Council on Monday approved an ordinance that does not outlaw begging but puts many limits on it.
City officials said it was done especially to combat “aggressive” panhandling that causes a person to feel threatened.
“Mayor and Council find that there has been an increase in aggressive solicitation in the City, which threatens the security, privacy, and freedom of movement of both residents and visitors,” the ordinance states.
The definition of aggressive panhandling includes using obscene or abusive language, touching someone without consent, or behaving in a manner that would “cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm.”
“I thought there was a need for this,” said Councilman Clifford Holmes.
It restricts panhandling on any bank property with an ATM, or within 20 feet of a free standing ATM. It also forbids panhandling in public parking lots at night or on busy roads, specifically naming Watson Boulevard, Russell Parkway, Houston Lake Road, Ga. 96 and Moody Road.
Police Chief Brett Evans said one of the most common complaints is panhandlers approaching people in their cars while in drive-thrus or other locations where they can’t move. The ordinance prohibits people from soliciting anyone who is “a captive audience.” Evans said citizens have expressed a sense of “being entrapped” in those instances.
It forbids begging without 20 feet of any business.
“People are generally afraid of getting out of their vehicles and approaching businesses,” Evans said.
It also forbids anyone from continuing to solicit a person after that person has already said no.