Panhandling and sleeping on park benches could soon be a crime in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Charlotte City Council members are set to take up re-criminalizing several ordinances that some activists believe unfairly target the city’s homeless population.

At Monday night’s Charlotte City Council Business Meeting, a vote will be taken surrounding ordinances that involve soliciting along the street and median, beer and wine consumption/open containers in public, unauthorized persons on parking lots, trespassing on motor vehicles, loitering for purposes of engaging in drug-related activity, masturbation in public, urination and defecation in public, and behaviors such as sleeping on park benches.

Currently, violations of the ordinances are citable offenses. If approved, they would be punishable up to a Class 3 misdemeanor and subject to a $500 fine.

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Councilman Tariq Bokhari is in support of the changes. In an interview with Queen City News Monday ahead of the meeting, he said, “I think Charlotte has reached a tipping point when it relates to homelessness (and) panhandling. Are we San Francisco (or) Los Angeles? No. Not today. But those places don’t happen overnight, and I think the entire community has woken up to the issues.”

Council members noted there has been support for the change among their constituents.

However, Councilwoman Tiawana Brown is among those in opposition to the changes. While she agrees some of the conduct that would be criminalized should not be seen in public, she fears the change would result in selective enforcement, targeting Charlotte’s homeless and vulnerable, and said there needed to be a focus on helping that population with a better investment in resources.

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“Why would I, as a newly elected representative and a community advocate, representative for the people, vote on something to bring more harm to them?” said Brown. “Now, will I negotiate? Do we need to work together? Absolutely we do.”

If approved, the re-criminalization would take effect immediately.

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