APD Chief Turner on New Monetary Solicitation Ordinance
The decision to donate money is a personal one. Many of us give thoughtful consideration to assisting others through support of worthy causes. None of us, however, should be subject to aggressive, unwanted monetary solicitation on our streets.
A new law prohibiting such solicitation went into effect on Nov. 9. Atlanta Police officers will be vigilant for violations and stand ready to enforce the new law. We believe the law strikes a balance as a reasonable, humane and enforceable way to stop aggressive monetary solicitation.
The new ordinance outlaws asking for money within 15 feet of ATMs and parking lot pay boxes. It also prohibits solicitation of money from anyone who is within 15 feet of a building entrance or exit or standing in line to enter a building or event facility. It expands the definition of aggressive panhandling by prohibiting someone from continuing to ask for money after he or she has been told “no.” The new law also outlaws touching during monetary solicitation. The laws apply on public property; criminal trespass laws on private property are unchanged.
Reasonable penalties have been established for violators, ranging from community service for a first conviction to a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail for a third conviction of aggressive monetary solicitation.
These measures are vital to the welfare of our City. The convention and tourism industry is one of Atlanta’s core businesses, pumping about $9 billion per year into our local economy. Mayor Reed is committed to providing those who live and work Downtown with a safe and clean experience.
It is also worthy to note that the City is working collaboratively on innovative solutions to end chronic homelessness. We are working with our partners to assure that those arrested for violating this ordinance are evaluated to determine if they need services such as mental health care, substance abuse treatment, job training and housing assistance.
Further, the Atlanta Police Department has a Homeless Outreach and Proactive Enforcement Team (HOPE), specially trained to interact with the homeless and work closely with our social service partners. Many of our officers also have specialized crisis training, allowing them to better understand the mental health issues that often accompany homelessness.
Together, Mayor Reed, the City Council and I are committed to making Atlanta a great place to live, an inspiring place to work and a wonderful place to visit. This new ordinance will help make our neighborhoods safe for visitors and residents, while also better positioning us to assist our most vulnerable citizens.
I hope you will help us get the word out about this new ordinance and the positive impact we expect it will have on our great City. Finally, I encourage anyone who is a victim of, or witness to, aggressive monetary solicitation to contact 911 to report the crime.
-- Chief George N. Turner