ALERT: Antioch, CA considers anti-panhandler law on Tues25May FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 24 May 1999 19:23:24 -0700 (PDT)


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Can any group or person attend the Antioch City Council meeting Tuesday,
May 25?  City Council will will consider an anti-panhandling ordinance.
Make sure your voice is heard.
How about free speech and the human right to seek help when needed?
Everyone's civil liberties are at stake when powerless groups are outlawed.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/1999/05/24/MN6650
3.DTL&type=printable
FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - May 24, 1999

     ANTIOCH SEEKS PANHANDLER BAN

     BUSINESSES APPLAUD LAW THAT WOULD FINE, JAIL LOITERERS

     Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer

Panhandlers in Antioch could face county jail time and
fines of up to $1,000 if they ignore warnings from merchants and
police to stay away from storefronts, under a proposed
anti-trespassing ordinance the City Council will consider tomorrow.

A number of Antioch merchants have complained to the city about
panhandling outside their businesses, especially in the area around
City Park on A Street where homeless people congregate for meals
provided by churches.

Susan Lopez, a clerk at the Rite Aid store on A Street, said some
panhandlers outside her store drink openly, behave boisterously and
scare away customers.

``It's real bad,'' Lopez said. ``We keep chasing them away and
they keep coming back. A few of our customers have told us they're
not coming back until we get rid of them.''

The proposed ordinance is modeled after a Walnut Creek
anti-trespassing law, adopted in 1994. It gives merchants and police
the ability to bar people from loitering in front of businesses. It
does not, however, ban lawful labor picketing or prohibit people from
standing on a sidewalk and distributing political or religious
leaflets.

It is similar to efforts in other Bay Area and Northern California
cities to curb panhandling while not violating the rights of the
homeless. Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto have adopted
anti-loitering laws in recent years with varying degrees of success.

The Antioch Chamber of Commerce asked the city to draft a tougher
law to deal with the problem after hearing repeated complaints from
businesses.

Chamber of Commerce executive Cary Dyer said the problem is
citywide. Just last week, Dyer said, he chased from his West 10th
Street office doorstep two women who were drinking from beer bottles
in paper bags.

Dyer said the intent is not to pick on the homeless but to
discourage habitual offenders.

``We're not trying to persecute people,'' Dyer said. ``Merchants
want to do business. The problem with these people is that they're
indigent. Police book 'em, cite 'em with a misdemeanor and they're
back in a few hours. At least with this ordinance, it gives police
more authority.''

Antioch Police Captain Mark Moczulski said the new law would
replace an ordinance that does not specify the area around a business
in which loitering is forbidden or give a time frame for staying
away.

Under the proposed law, trespassers who are issued a warning would
be forbidden to stand in front of a business or return within 72
hours.

Violators would be subject to a misdemeanor penalty of up to six
months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Even an advocate for the homeless said he supports the law.

Jim Clites, who has been doing outreach ministry and feeding the
homeless at City Park for five years, said people should not be
begging for money outside stores. As part of his work, he refers
homeless people to shelters and drug and alcohol recovery programs.

``They should have enacted this a long time ago,'' Clites said
last week. ``Begging for money is not a life. They don't need a
bottle, they don't need to beg for money. They need to make a
lifestyle change.''

Moczulski said the ordinance would take effect 30 days after the
council vote.

Similar efforts to curb panhandling in Berkeley and Palo Alto have
been seldom enforced, police and merchants in those cities said.
Santa Cruz issues about one or two citations per week.


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