In a December 28, 2011 article in The News & Observer by Thomasi McDonald titled “Raleigh charges 8 beggars,” it was divulged that eight people were arrested in Raleigh for begging without a permit. According to the article, the arrests show the city’s growing intolerance of panhandling. Well, in today’s economic climate where the unemployment rate is at an all time high, banks are foreclosing on homes like there’s no tomorrow, and most of those people with jobs are overworked at slave wages, it is no surprise that the number of people panhandling is expected to increase.
According to the Raleigh ordinance, those individuals seeking to beg must obtain a permit… which is issued free of charge. It is not a revenue generator and the city is not being cheated out of any income, so why is it a crime for the poor and needy obtain a permit? If it is so important to regulate panhandling, why not have the police register the beggars on site… like they do for voting, rather than handing out citations and arresting the people.
The panhandling permit is one of the most ridiculous and inhumane laws on the books. If during hard times people are forced to beg, surely their financial status will not enable them to pay a bail of $1,000.00, or even $75.00. Instead of jailing them at taxpayer expense, one solution would be for them to be given a permit. And yet, even then it’s all madness. It’s absurd.
What Raleigh is doing, according to Raleigh police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan is merely enforcing an ordinance that is on the books. Its net effect is to turn law-abiding, poor, disenfranchised people who are desperate down on their luck into jail inmates… fodder for the all powerful Prison Industrial Complex. Surely these people are not being locked up for no reason. Head honchos who control the unethical corporations that feast on those who suffer from famine, are bringing in big bucks… hand over fist at the unjust misery of these unfortunates. And what is a boon to the Prison Industrial Complex is a bust to the taxpayers.
Now, if Raleigh’s obtuse panhandling permit wasn’t bad enough, it has evidently inspired other government agencies to follow its heartless lead. In fact, Wake County is in essence double dipping by forcing its Raleigh residents to obtain a panhandler permit that requires renewal every week. As if in an attempt to outdo Wake County, Johnson County is considering a panhandler permit that will require its applicants to undergo a criminal background check.
Those people who are panhandling need employment and not incarceration. Unfortunately, the news article did not state how long these violators who did not have a begging permit would be held in jail. Only one of the eight was able to post bond. The remaining seven are still being held in jail… their crime, panhandling without a permit.
What makes this panhandling permit nonsensical is that police state that panhandling is a “public safety concern” by blocking rights of way… whatever that is. But what I would like to know is how does a permit to panhandle improve public safety over panhandling without a permit?
Like most people, I don’t enjoy being approached by panhandlers, but more likely than not I will usually make an attempt to help them out financially and treat them with dignity. I would prefer that desperate people panhandle rather than mug others in order to survive. Making it a crime to panhandle merely makes it more difficult for those asking for money to distinguish between the legal consequences of begging and mugging.
Seven of the eight arrested on December 27, 2011 were in their 40’s and 50’s age-wise, and one fifty year old woman told the court that she was begging for her dying sister. So the magistrate hearing her case told her that she would only have to pay a bail bondsman $75.00 to get out of jail. As she so eloquently put it as she was being led away to jail sobbing, “I don’t have the money. That’s the problem.” Why can’t the city of Raleigh figure that out?
What’s next on the city of Raleigh’s agenda..? Forcing people who are living on the streets to have a homeless permit?
No doubt, the Man from Nazareth is not happy at what is going on in Raleigh.