Many local residents have expressed concerns over panhandlers in the area. On most days you will find two or more people sitting in the general area of Wal-Mart holding signs that ask for contributions to homelessness, hunger, etc. The concern comes from those who say that they have witnessed these individuals pack up their things and leave the area in a “nice vehicle” and that the panhandling is done on private property.
South Hill Police Chief Stuart Bowen said in a recent Facebook video that many residents have contacted the local police department about why nothing has been done to address this issue. Bowen says that the short answer is “there’s not a whole lot that we can do about it. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that panhandling is a protected free speech”.
Chief Bowen went on to say that many localities in Virginia have tried to enforce panhandling regulations and ordinances but have since pulled back on that enforcement due to court rulings and expensive judgments that localities have been forced to pay for what the courts call a violation of civil rights as it pertains to free speech.
The South Hill Chief urges locals to not encourage the behavior. “By not giving people money they are not going to stay around here.” For those looking to just be kind he encourages you to consider donating to a local organization of some sort.
Local business owners are within their rights to call the local police to remove any panhandlers that are soliciting on private commercial property. Some business owners have signed authorizations allowing police to enforce trespassing laws. “This allows officers to ban people from those properties for engaging in panhandling on the property owner’s behalf. Talk to a store official or ask for a property manager if you are having a problem with panhandlers on private property.” There have been no known reports of these individuals asking for money on private residential property.