Police have begun ticketing drivers who give money to panhandlers in the city of Newark, New Jersey.
City officials claim that the new ordinance is intended to make the roadways safer for drivers, pedestrians, and those begging for money, WLNY-TV reported.
"People are well-meaning and want to help, but this is a safety issue," Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose told the news station. "We have panhandlers wading into traffic at busy exit ramps off Route 280 or on McCarter Highway, which jeopardizes their own health. We had a female pedestrian killed on McCarter Highway just a few weeks ago."
Ambrose added that handing out cash to homeless people often causes more problems than it helps.
"When a driver stops and gives a panhandler money, they're basically helping them feed bad habits," Ambrose said. "We want to discourage this, but while offering these panhandlers significant and meaningful help."
In recent weeks, police have cited nearly 100 drivers and 250 panhandlers. Violators face a $50 fine, plus the cost of court fees.
What is the city doing to help the homeless?
The new law is part of the city's overall strategy to help the homeless population.
Newark Hope One, a police mobile unit launched in December, goes into the neighborhoods where the homeless gather and offers critical services to help them get off the streets.
"I'm pleased Hope One Newark is making an impact in meeting the needs of those addicted, suffering from mental illness or living homeless," Ambrose said. "We're coming to them, and giving them a pathway to improve their lives."
The mobile services unit has helped more than 120 people so far in 2019, Ambrose told Essex Daily Voice.