Biloxi discussing panhandling/loitering ordinance

Biloxi discussing panhandling/loitering ordinance

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Downtown Biloxi has lots of visitors, and some of those visitors, according to business owners, aren't there to spend their money, but rather gain a few bucks.

"They just come aggravate customers, or anybody who's walking around here, for money," said Bobby Mahoney, owner of Mary Mahoney's restaurant.

Mary Mahoney's is right in the middle of it all, and Mahoney said he's seen an increasing presence of panhandlers, and it's getting out of hand.

"They need to do something. It's starting to deter people from coming to downtown Biloxi, and then they get over there on the other side when they're walking from the Beau Rivage to the Hard Rock. They're harassing people for money. They'll go up to your car doors and ask for your money and so on and so forth," said Mahoney.

After several business owners voiced their concerns, the city is trying to take action.

"We don't think people should be fearful. We don't think they should be intimidated," said city spokesman Vincent Creel.
    
According to Creel, an ordinance is in the works to try to reduce or regulate panhandling and loitering as much as possible. This could include setting time limits, and/or adding a permit requirement.

Any action is music to the ears of those living and working in the area, like Leonie Johnston Simmons, owner of Lavish Salon. Simmons says he understands the draw of downtown.

"They know that in this area tourists are people with money. And, obviously, they're not stupid. They know what they're doing. I am thrilled that the city is going to have a resolution and hopefully get us some relief," said Simmons.

The city council will hear a first reading of the ordinance during this week's council meeting. So, no action will be taken yet.

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