Tysons Corner, VA

Commuters in Fairfax County may soon see new anti-panhandling signs at major intersections.

At a Fairfax County Public Safety Commission meeting today (Sept. 17), county officials discussed strategies to keep panhandling at bay while still helping community members in need.

Back in July, the board approved a board matter from Supervisors John Cook and Pat Herrity that would prohibit “curb to curb” interaction between drivers and pedestrians, and the board directed county staff to create a proposed ordinance for the board to consider at the meeting today.

The ordinance, though, wasn’t brought up. “I thought we were going to have a draft ordinance today,” Herrity said.

Popular ideas discussed included implementation of informational signs at intersections, conducting surveys among panhandlers to see what resources the county can provide them and the possibility of implementing future ordinances.

Representatives from the County Attorney’s Office and the Public Safety Office presented signage from other jurisdictions that addressed the issue by discouraging passers-by from giving panhandlers money. The signs included a hotline suggesting resources for those in need.

“I think we should go the signage route before we consider an ordinance,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust agreed with Bulova’s statement. “We should try to avoid criminalizing behavior that is not having a serious impact,” he said.

Throughout the discussion, board members echoed concerns surrounding panhandling, saying that people hanging out near intersections are more likely to be hit by cars.

“I don’t care who it is or what they are trying to raise money for… [panhandling] is unsafe and I don’t like it,” Cook, who represents the Braddock District, said.

A few of the board members said they think putting up signs makes more sense than passing ordinances because if drivers stop handing out money, panhandlers won’t be making money anymore and will lose motivation.

“You’ve got to find out how to get these folks into a different environment and how to help them,” Cathy Hudgins, a board member representing Vienna and Reston said, adding that she thought the board is off to a good start toward a solution.  

As for where the signs would go, Providence District Supervisor  Linda Smyth said that the county will need to coordinate with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Now, the motion to approve the suggestions will be voted on at the Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday (Sept. 24).

“Have at it — all of the above,” Smyth said about the anti-panhandling suggestions.

Images via Fairfax County

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