Fairfax County Considers Posting Signs to Discourage Panhandling

"People are preying on the generosity of our residents"

Fairfax County is poised to become the first community in the region to post signs discouraging panhandling.

County leaders say that homelessness is down, but panhandling and complaints about it are on the rise.

"I know as a driver, I don't like it. I don't care who it is. It is unsafe," Fairfax County Board Member John Cook said at a meeting Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors wants to address panhandling by putting up signs at some intersections that read: "Do not encourage panhandling by giving money from vehicle."

Supervisors say the signs will discourage drivers from getting money to panhandlers. Similar signs are used in other parts of Virginia, including the city of Roanoke and Henrico County.

"People are preying on the generosity of our residents. There's no absolutes in panhandling. Some people really need help, but there are a lot of people out there who are taking advantage of our residents," Supervisor Pat Herrity said.

But protesters who came to the meeting believe cracking down on panhandling penalizes the poor.

They brought their own signs that said, "Basic needs, not more police" and "Signs create stigmas and enable violence."

The group declined News4's request for an interview.

Supervisors say the proposed signs will have a phone number people can call for help.

"So, if somebody says I’m out here panhandling because I can’t eat we can say, 'Have you tried this food bank? Where do you live? Where are you located? Here are the services closer to you," Cook said.

At least one board member would like the panhandling crackdown to go even farther by enacting an ordinance outlawing the practice. However, the rest of the board wants to see how the signs work before considering that step.

The board must still take an official vote to put up the signs.

Signs would only go up at intersections with frequent panhandling.

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