Sarasota, Florida -- It doesn't matter whether you're selling newspapers or just want a handout, starting Monday in the City of Sarasota, you'd better be off the streets.
As of Monday morning, panhandling along the side of the road or in the median is against the law in the city.
This is not a narrow ban. It applies to pretty much every situation that puts people out in traffic.
You can't go out to the road and ask for donations, ask for work, or sell things. You also can't hand things to people in cars, and they can't hand things out the window to you.
In its news release explaining the ban, the Sarasota Police Department said it's all about keeping people safe; there's no mention of maintaining Sarasota's upscale image.
Violate the ban and you may be given a summons to appear in court or you may be arrested there on the spot.
Police started putting big message boards at major intersections a week ago telling people this ban was coming.
Already, they seem to have had an effect. One writer at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune figures he'd seen the number of panhandlers in the city drop by 70 percent by this past weekend.
And a common-sense reminder here: Just like telemarketers, if no one gave panhandlers any money, chances are good they would stop panhandling.
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