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Chapel Hill Panhandlers Could Be Begging For Trouble

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CHAPEL HILL — Panhandlers in Chapel Hill could face a $50 fine or 48 hours in jail if they violate an ordinance passed by the Town Council Monday night.

The anti-aggressive panhandling ordinance was passed to protect merchants and customers upset about what they call aggressive begging.

It makes it illegal to intimidate or accost someone while asking for money, and it makes it illegal to sleep on a bench on a public street.

Police will be enforcing the ordinance, which states panhandlers cannot ask for money within 20 feet of a bank or ATM. Panhandlers must also steer clear of transit stops.

But police also says they will try to be compassionate. They plan to hand out warnings before they hand out fines or jail times.

One panhandler says he earns the most on football game Saturdays. But on those days, "John" says he earns less than $50. He says town leaders should focus instead on getting more organizations to help the homeless get back on their feet.

Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf says the town is working with the Inter-faith Council to provide more options for the homeless, but reiterates that aggressive begging is not acceptable.