Panhandling ordinance up for discussion in Ocoee

- In Ocoee, city commissioners want to put a stop to what they call "aggressive and intimidating panhandling."

They say it's a danger to public safety and they're not only referring to the homeless.

“A lot of people immediately go to the homeless type of situation and that's not the case at all,” said Ocoee Deputy Chief Steve McCosker. “We find people that approach intersections, like football or baseball teams, civic organizations, churches, and they start using the medians to go ahead and try to collect money.”

The proposed city ordinance would make it a crime for anyone to ask for money without registering with the city.

That means showing ID and having police take their picture and fingerprints.

“They'll go ahead and receive a permit and get a copy of the ordinance, so they know what the rules are,” McCosker said.

There are restrictions where you can panhandle – no asking for money within 100 feet of a bus stop, train stop, school, ATM or liquor store.

Also, no begging in public parks or on private property without the owner's permission.

It also restricts the ways you can panhandle.

You have to stay 3-feet back from a person. No threatening, no cursing, no lying or faking a disability. 

“If you're a female or someone else and there's somebody that you don't know standing at a stop sign, holding a sign, you're obligated to stop. It creates an uncomfortable position,” McCosker said.
Commissioners say Ocoee's aggressive panhandling problem has much gotten worse over the last year and a half.

One resident wishes they didn't need the ordinance.

“Unfortunately, we live in a society where laws are necessary,” said Carlos Prieto, and Ocoee Resident. “What I don't want to see is this being used to push people out of public perception and pretend that the problem doesn't exist.”

If the ordinance passes, there are three levels of punishment for offenders: 1.) A warning 2.) Police will pull their panhandling registration 3.) Arrest

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