FLINT TWP. — After nearly a year of debate and a two-month grace period, the township’s new Traffic Safety Ordinance went into full effect on Sunday, March 1.
The township board passed the controversial ordinance in a 4-3 vote on January 5 to “regulate interference with motor vehicles on public streets.”
The ordinance started out last spring as a means to control the township’s growing street-begging problem. It evolved into a Traffic Safety Ordinance after postponement, an advisory committee deliberation and legal counseling.
The ordinance makes it unlawful to “receive or to attempt to receive money or any other object or thing from an occupant of a motor vehicle that is operating on a public street.’”
It also makes it unlawful “to give or attempt to give money or any other object or thing to an occupant of a motor vehicle that is operating on a public street.”
In effect, it prohibits motorists from handing donations out of their cars to panhandlers known to frequent locations in the township including the I-75 exit ramp to Miller Road and the street median in front of Sam’s Club on Corunna Road.
The ordinances reinforces an existing state Motor Vehicle Code that bans impeding or interfering with vehicles on public streets, without permission.
Technically, the new law does not prohibit panhandlers from standing on those corners but does prohibit them from being able to take anything from or give anything to a driver in a car that is in traffic.
Violators will be charged with a municipal civil infraction and fines up to $500.
As the weather warms up in coming weeks, it remains to be seen how panhandlers adapt to this new law.
The two-month incubation period before the law went into effect was to allow police officers time to spread the word to panhandlers.
Township officials also said they are working with various charities including the United Way to provide information to street beggars about places they can go to get help.