Summit County cracks down on panhandling

BATH TOWNSHIP, Ohio - James Jarvis told NewsChannel5 he's a homeless father of three, a panhandler who depends on generous hand-outs for a living. However, Jarvis may soon be kicked out of his regular corner near Route 18 in Bath Township. 

A bill introduced in the Summit County Council will force panhandlers to register with the county and follow new rules, which include staying at least 25 feet away from intersections and ATMs, among other locations.

"We just want to level the playing field," said Summit County Council Member Nick Kostandaras. Kostandaras is the bill's co-sponsor and said long-standing legislation in Akron and recent crackdowns in Fairlawn have caused an influx of panhandlers to now work the busy Bath Township shopping areas. 

Phette Towns lives near the Montrose shopping area and said, "When I go to the doctors and around, they're always out… They usually have signs up, ‘Out of a Job, Looking for Money, Looking for Work' … You feel for them."

Bath Township leaders said they're concerned over public safety. The township's police Capt. Greg Lang said although the police department hasn't had much trouble with panhandlers in the area, traffic safety is still a major concern on the busy stretch. He went on to say it becomes a problem when panhandlers delay traffic to interact with drivers. 

"I'm not angry with the county, I'm definitely glad that they're putting restrictions and things like that on what happens out here because it does eliminate a lot of the riff-raff that comes out here for scheming and things of that nature," Jarvis said.

Jarvis added he welcomes the new legislation and believes following new laws will help him support his family by dissuading those who may run panhandling scams. 

Kostandaras said the council plans on passing the legislation before it lets out for the summer on June 25.

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