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Chapel Hill Town Council Takes Steps Toward Stopping Panhandling

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — After hearing two hours of public comment and debate about the issue Monday night, the Chapel Hill Town Council approved two measures it hopes will stop panhandling in town.

By unanimous vote, the council approved the banning of any panhandling, begging or soliciting along roads and medians. That includes the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Erwin Road, which has been a main intersection for panhandlers who stand with signs asking for money.

The second measure passed by just one vote, 5-4. It calls for a dusk-to-dawn ban on panhandling on any public property in Chapel Hill.

The town's nighttime ban on panhandling applies to verbal or written direct requests for money.

The wording of the nighttime ban drew much debate Monday. Critics, including Police Chief Gregg Jarvies, argued that panhandling using only a sign or a guitar case open to accept donations still would be legal.

Because of the 5-4 vote, the council will have to hold a "second reading" of the ordinance change and vote again before the nighttime ban would take effect.

Jarvies said his department would not start enforcing the new rules until May at the earliest.

The second reading is scheduled for March 24.

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