Biloxi passes panhandling ordinance, but concerns remain

Biloxi passes panhandling ordinance, but concerns remain

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday night, in a split vote, an ordinance on panhandling passed in Biloxi. Some city council members had concerns about the implications of the ordinance that's meant to regulate and reduce the amount of panhandling.

"It would be different if they didn't leave the trash behind, if they didn't use the bathroom behind your stores," said Biloxi business owner Brandy Waltman.

Waltman said though she's seen an increase in police presence, she still sees homeless people with serious drug and alcohol problems near her store. And that's something that worries her.

"As a female coming out of my store I still see it. I still see the ones that are out of their mind," Waltman said.

It's for that reason and many others that a majority of the council members voted to approve the new ordinance on panhandling.

"We really felt that we needed to get something on the books to begin dealing with the aggressive panhandling situation here particularly in downtown Biloxi," said Councilman Paul Tisdale.

"The situation's gotten much better since the last time I addressed the council," said Chevis Swetman with Peoples Bank.

Panhandling isn't actually illegal, but doing it aggressively is. The new ordinance requires all panhandlers, peddlers or solicitors to apply for a license before engaging in any activity in the city.

Though all city leaders agree something needs to be done, some weren't in agreement on the new law's wording.

"I think issuing a license is only going to encourage the issue. I know that Slidell has passed the same ordinance and every time I go to Slidell, which has been a lot lately there is a ridiculous amount of panhandlers," said Councilwoman Dixie Newman.

"Like you stated chief and the mayor, that this is a part of a bunch of things and there's going to be a bunch of ordinances coming down. So I would prefer to be prudent and discuss what else is coming down before we pass something just to pass something," said Councilman Robert Deming

City leaders want to further discuss the law during a workshop on November 28. The new law takes effect in a little over a month from now. Council members hope to work out any issues they have with the ordinance before then.

Read the full ordinance here: http://bit.ly/2yI8E0e

Copyright 2017 WLOX. All rights reserved.