GPD offers verbal warnings for pedestrian ordinance, activist concerned the law could have a negative impact

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 6:03 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Officers with the Gainesville Police Department are tasked with enforcing a pedestrian safety ordinance aimed at keeping people from loitering in roadway medians. Education is the key to enforcement for officers with the GPD when it comes to new laws. This philosophy has been instrumental in the introduction of this new ordinance.

“We can enforce a law, but we want to inform the neighbors about what the new law says. Over the last several weeks, our officers, when they’ve encountered people on those medians smaller than the six-foot width that the ordinance speaks to, let them know there is a new law that was passed in Gainesville, and you can’t panhandle within these smaller medians,” explained Graham Glover a Public Information Officer for the Gainesville Police Department. “This is, of course, a public safety issue.”

An activist within the homeless community believes that fining people who stand in the median will only hurt homeless panhandlers and feel other measures should have come first.

“Education along with possibly posting where it is that people cannot panhandle, or cannot ask for monetary donations or ask for monetary donations is probably a wise thing for the city to do before they start fining people,” said Mark Watson, a Street Outreach Homeless Advocate.

The educations aspect is vital to ensure people are not hit with hefty fines.

“If a person doesn’t know and they get a fine for 50 dollars if you don’t have any money, and you don’t have a job, and you are homeless, 50 dollars you might as well fine them a million. That is a lot of money to somebody who doesn’t have money,” said Watson.

Moving people from the medians could mean a loss of income.

“People who are in the medians, sometimes that is their job because they can’t get anything else. I think they will be unduly punished for needing help,” according to Watson.

Once the monetary citations start to hit, Watson thinks it will hurt those who need help the most.

According to Watson, “It is going to put an undue burden on an already marginalized population in our community.”

He believes the issue of housing needs to be addressed, which will help with people standing in the medians. Glover said they are seeing a significant decrease in the number of people standing within the medians since the ordinance went into effect in late January.

“Just from some of the interactions that our officers have already had with pedestrians on the road, simply by sharing with the public this new ordinance, that in it of itself will get less people off those very narrow medians,” explained Glover.

He said they will begin issuing official warnings in the coming weeks.

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