Two charged with panhandling

Published 9:10 pm Monday, March 28, 2016

Two people have been issued a summons for panhandling since a new ordinance went into effect less than two weeks ago.

Jason Matthew Callan, 39, of Newport News, was issued a summons on March 23 in the 5800 block of Harbour View Boulevard, city spokeswoman Diana Klink said.

April Dawn Davis, 36, of Chesapeake, received a summons March 25 in the 6200 block of College Drive, Klink added.

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Klink said police officers provided verbal notifications to those found panhandling from March 17 — the day after City Council passed a new ordinance — through March 21.

After that date, summonses were issued.

City Council passed the new ordinance on March 16, prohibiting panhandling within 15 feet of most major city roads. It also prohibits soliciting money in exchange for cleaning windows while the vehicle is in the traffic lane, distributing newspapers or fliers to vehicle occupants and soliciting signatures on petitions or raffle registrations from vehicle occupants.

During the March 16 meeting, four people spoke about the ordinance. Two were in favor of it, but another two called for compassion.

“They impede traffic,” Courtney Wolfe said. “This is a public safety issue. They are preying on the goodness of your citizens and shoppers.”

Christine French called the ordinance and others like it “homeless hate laws.”

“It seems to me to be based more on aesthetic concerns,” she said. “I can assure you, jail will not scare someone trying to feed themselves.”

Maj. Steve Patterson of the Suffolk Police Department said the department has received 102 calls in the past 15 months reporting panhandlers. Most came from Harbour View and the commercial areas of North Main Street and Holland Road, he said.

The new ordinance also makes violation of the ordinance a Class 3 misdemeanor, down from a Class 2 misdemeanor previously. That ensures nobody will face jail time as a result of violating the ordinance. It is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Arraignment dates for Callan and Davis are set in General District Court for April 12 and May 3, respectively.