Panhandling in one North Carolina city has become such a growing presence that city lawmakers have instituted new guidelines for the practice. In Winston-Salem, panhandlers will now be required to undergo background screening in order to receive a free permit to conduct their street activity, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.
The new rules come after the city council approved new regulations that overturn a December measure that banned panhandlers from medians. Panhandlers can be denied a permit if their background checks come back with a red flag for violating the previous ordinance on more than one occasion or have at least two convictions for violent crimes. Winston-Salem police chief Scott Cunningham said the new measures will not eliminate panhandlers, but they will control their growing presence. More importantly, city officials are concerned about public safety following a number of incidents in which individuals felt threatened by panhandlers. The background checks will take three to five business days, which means many panhandlers will operate in violation of the ordinance in the short term. Cunningham told the news source that his staff will be on the lookout and could make arrests.