Be consistent in enforcement of panhandling

This letter is about the equal and consistent enforcement of the panhandling ordinance by the police department. A recent online article from a local newspaper dated July 23, 2014, indicated that there had been an increase in arrests in downtown for panhandling.

Asheville police Sgt. Dave Romick was quoted as saying: “Asheville officers assigned to the downtown are trained to cite or arrest ‘serial beggars,’ those who frequent the downtown to panhandle. Officers try to make a distinction between the repeat offenders and people who suddenly find themselves in an emergency situation.”

This cannot possibly be true because for long hours on a nearly daily basis, I see a man in a wheel chair asking for “help.” He seems to be a local celebrity and is allowed to continue to panhandle day after day. Why is that happening? Are the police doing their job? Is he exempt from the ordinance?

Is the deterrent effect of the ordinance ineffective because continuing to panhandle pays better than the fines imposed when arrested? I know there are “shades of grey” in everything, but discretion by those who should enforce such rules (i.e. those in power) really concerns me.

Paul Viera
Asheville

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