It’s become a rite of passage.
Can you really call yourself a “local” unless you’ve been accosted by a grubby bindlestiff with a cardboard sign announcing, “Why lie, I need a beer,” shouting incoherently while walking past a line of stopped traffic at literally any intersection from Ormond Beach to Edgewater?
You know the drill.
On approach to any major intersection, you shift uncomfortably in your seat, instinctively push the door lock and issue your best Clark Criswold-like “Roll ‘em up!” as you stare straight ahead in an effort to avoid the aggressive mendicants working every quadrant.
And don’t get me started on a trip to the beach – or, God forbid – a day at the crumbling remains of Daytona’s Boardwalk.
Our once heralded fun spot has dissolved into a dystopian wasteland inhabited by every stripe of human carnage – vagabonds, layabouts, ambulatory drunks, opioid zombies, tramps, hobos, the chronic homeless, the mentally ill, organized beggars and criminal miscreants – all of which have descended on our hometown, en masse, impacting our quality of life, ruining our economic viability and rapidly destroying “The Brand.”
Look, all caring human beings have a compassionate spot in their heart for other human beings in need – it’s called having empathy for your fellow man – and it is an admirable quality that compels us to take care of the lesser of us whenever possible.
After all, caring for the oppressed and downtrodden is a basic precept of most religious teaching – “I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
But this is something different. Something ugly and corrosive.
Last evening, the Daytona Beach City Commission took initial steps to approve an ordinance that will ban most panhandling in the city by allowing police to issue citations and arrest repeat offenders.
According to Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri, his officers will use the first few weeks as an educational period – issuing verbal warnings to violators and only arresting those who refuse to cease and desist.
In my view, Chief Capri has developed a refreshing reputation for policing with fairness and firmness – and I am incredibly pleased to see the City Commission give his officers a new arrow in their quiver to deal with one of the most intractable problems of our time.
“The goal is compliance. We’ve got to take back the streets and make it safe.” Amen.
According to an excellent article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The panhandling ban would extend within 20 feet, in any direction, of an entrance or exit of commercially zoned property; a bus stop or public transportation facility; an automated teller machine; parking lots, parking garages; parking meters; parking pay stations and any public restroom owned and operated by a governmental agency.”
Other provisions of the ordinance prohibit panhandling on the Boardwalk, within 150 feet of any signalized intersection and within 100 feet in any direction of any daycare center or school including prekindergarten through grade 12 – along with specific prohibitions on aggressive behavior.
Kudos to the City of Daytona Beach for this innovative tool – and for acknowledging what many of us have known for years: The pervasiveness of hoards of roving beggars and belligerent scroungers has ruined the aesthetics of large swaths of our community, seriously impacted small businesses and threatens tourism as visitors tire of being physically accosted by these assholes, smelling the ever-present odor of urine and realizing that their precious leisure time and dollars spend anywhere.
Why didn’t the Volusia County Council have the strategic vision to take up this issue?
(That’s a rhetorical question. . .)
This malignant curse isn’t limited to just one community – and those dullards we have elected to represent our collective interest in DeLand should know that.
In my experience, this problem is mercurial – and as the City of Daytona Beach cracks down in their community – the practitioners of this lucrative trade will simply move to surrounding cities and set up shop at any intersection that provides ready access to potential victims – and beer.
Kudos to the Daytona Beach City Commission and Chief Capri for their diligence and foresight.