BEAUFORT, S.C. (WTOC) -The City of Beaufort will be discussing a new ordinance on Tuesday night that would make it illegal to sleep in public areas like park benches. It would also ban what they call aggressive panhandling, which is when someone approaches another person and asks for money.
The police chief says COVID-19 is one of the reasons they suspect this form of panhandling has increased
“We’ve seen an increase two-fold," said Interim Police Chief Dale McDorman of Beaufort. "One because a lot of the restaurants now have outdoor seating. So people are panhandling the folks that are eating, and we’ve also seen an increase around banks.”
But the ordinance is not limited to panhandling. It also prohibits blocking pathways and sleeping in public areas. Beaufort Communications' Kathleen Williams says it focuses on more obstructive types of camping
“The ordinance actually looked at what’s called camping," said Williams. "And that’s basically setting up even some kind of temporary residence where you would plug-in appliances or set up camping stoves.”
The wording actually in the ordinance says anyone found sleeping or preparing to sleep on a park bench would be in violation. The city says they are just thinking about safety.
“We just want to make sure that our city is a safe environment for all of our residents and visitors and business people,” Williams said.
They did add that Tuesday’s discussion will be the first reading of the ordinance, so it could change. Having words added or taken out before it’s finalized.