Asheville, N.C., is consiering a law subjecting those who lie about their need to panhandle to maximum 30-day jail terms. The idea is one of several recommendations for improving the downtown area by a 50-member community task force. It is it getting attention in an artsy city where street musicians are part of the landscape, reports the Charlotte Observer.
Dwight Butner of the Downtown Social Issues Taskforce said, “We’ve had reports that there are individuals in Asheville and around the country who regularly go out and say they are an ex-veteran, and it turns out they’ve got a $400 or $500 a week job.” Butner, a restaurant owner, says, “It’s important to draw a distinction between people really in need and those trying to exploit people.”
Opponents fear the new proposal will infringe on civil liberties and be randomly enforced. “Let’s pick up the liars? That seems really strange,” said Grant Millin of WNC 911 Coalition for America, a civil liberties watchdog group based in Asheville. “We’ll have a court case on the spot? How do you do that?”