By Daniel Kelley
(Reuters) - The southern New Jersey community of Middle Township will require beggars to have a permit, in response to repeated complaints to police about nuisance panhandling over the past year.
The Township Committee passed an ordinance on Monday night requiring the permit to "ask, beg or solicit alms" anywhere in the township.
"We didn't ask for this because there's people on the corner saying, 'Can you spare a dollar?'" Police Chief Christopher Leusner said. "We're talking about aggressive behavior -following people to their car."
The permit, which is free, lasts for a year and requires photo identification. The law requires applicants to go through a check for warrants before being issued. The new law also makes it illegal to block pedestrian traffic while begging and to beg near cash machines, running cars, and store entrances.
Fines start at $250.
Simple panhandling is constitutionally protected the First Amendment right to free speech, Leusner said, so he asked the town's attorney to draft a legally acceptable ordinance.
The American Civil Liberties Union had no immediate comment.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alden Bentley)