The Leon County Commission voted 6-1 to move forward with an ordinance that would prohibit solicitation and panhandling on private property, but did not address such activities in the median of roadways.
Currently, private property owners and lessees in Tallahassee-Leon County must request an individual be trespassed off of their property or a blanket trespass from law enforcement (i.e. Leon County Sheriff Office or Tallahassee Police Department) that authorizes the removal and/or arrest of any individuals who are not authorized to be on their property.
Private property owners have shared that the process is cumbersome and does not serve the intended purpose of deterring the activities of panhandling or solicitation.
However, ordinances in other cities, such as one adopted in Gainesville, allows law enforcement to more quickly address solicitation or panhandling on private property with posted signage.
The 6-1 Board vote directs staff to bring back an agenda item to consider an ordinance that authorizes law enforcement to enforce solicitation and panhandling prohibition on private properties without having to enforce trespassing.
Leon County Commissioner O’Keefe voted against the item, noting his concern that the enforcement of the proposed ordinance will result in an increased chance of a criminal offense – such as resisting arrest.
Panhandling in the Median
The Board also considered the development of a countywide ordinance to promote safety, making it unlawful to hold a sign or display advertisement in a median of a road for any reason.
The staff noted that several Florida communities have adopted and are enforcing ordinances that make it unlawful to stand, occupy, or otherwise remain in the median of a road. Pasco County, Lee County, Clay County, and Brevard County have adopted substantially similar ordinances within the past two years.
In February 2023, the City of Jacksonville adopted an ordinance which in part prohibits occupancy on the median of roadways to promote safety citing data from FDOT studies and other authority. However, staff noted in this case the FDOT data did not specifically identify whether the pedestrian injuries or fatalities were due to standing or remaining on the median of roads or due to another reason. FDOT shared that such granular data does not exist at this time.
The Leon County Attorney’s Office has noted that the generalized FDOT data does not by itself establish a correlation between standing in a median and holding a sign or advertisement and pedestrian injuries or fatalities and, as a result, the data may not be sufficient justification to adopt a countywide ordinance that would hold up in court.
The Board agreed with the County Attorney’s assessment and did not move forward with the proposed ordinance related to panhandling in the median of a roadway.