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South Miami Pushing Back Against Panhandling

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBS4) – Panhandling and trespassing are the targets of possible new ordinances by the South Miami City Commission, Tuesday.

The first of two new ordinances would make it illegal to panhandle, “by trick or fraud,” or to help someone violate the ordinance and prohibit panhandling while trespassing.

To go along with the first ordinance, CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald,reports a second ordinance would define and prohibit trespassing on private and public property.

The city manager would be allowed to designate which areas of city property the public is not allowed and time restrictions on when the public can be there.

State law already prohibits trespassing.

Under the possible new ordinances, violators could be fined up to $500, or receive a sentence of six months in jail or possibly both.

Some people are concerned the ordinances will have far-reaching impacts.

Baylor Johnson, spokesman for the ACLU of Florida, wrote in a statement to the Miami Herald, “The language of the ordinances is troubling enough, because it is overly broad and vague, but the real danger posed by these ordinances is primarily in how – and against whom – they are enforced.”

Johnson added the laws can be used to single out and target the homeless.

Cities have come under fire for passing ordinances similar to the ones South Miami commissioners will consider.

A judge told the city of Sarasota it had to stop enforcing a trespass ordinance the ACLU believed was targeting homeless.

Subsequently, Sarasota passed an ordinance in April prohibiting soliciting funds along public roads.

The South Miami ordinances were submitted by Vice Mayor Joshua Liebman.

Both ordinances are on their first reading, and will need a second reading for final approval.

South Miami City Hall is located at 6130 Sunset Drive, and Tuesday’s commission meeting begins at 7 p.m.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)

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