Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Anti-Camping Ordinance in Effect Crackdown on Transients Begins

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Anti-Camping Ordinance in Effect Crackdown on Transients Begins

Article excerpt

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- Police have begun enforcing a law adopted Tuesday that prohibits sleeping or camping on the beach or any other public place in Jacksonville Beach.

Officers will issue a warning the first time they find someone sleeping or camping on the beach, at a park, along the street or in a parking lot between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The second time around, the officer may arrest the person and charge them with a misdemeanor, or give them a notice to appear in court on the criminal charge.

The City Council unanimously approved the anti-camping ordinance to help tackle what the mayor and other officials describe as the city's most pressing issue: how the behavior of some transients is infringing on the safety and quality of life for people who live and work downtown.

Residents and business people have repeatedly complained about panhandlers and transients urinating and defecating in public, sleeping in public places, exposing themselves or acting rowdy.

Barbara Galvin, who lives in the Oceanview Highlands subdivision in south Jacksonville Beach, told the council that transients have kicked her children out of her back yard and burned her picnic table for firewood.

"What's camping in my backyard are people who don't want to work," she said. "I've been here for 15 years. I want them out."

Jeff McBride also urged the council to adopt the law, saying it would go far to enhance public safety.

"The consequence of inaction is high," McBride said.

Mayor Bob Marsden said the issue of homeless people sleeping in public and being a public annoyance has prompted more complaints than any other in the last several years. He said he probably receives five or six calls or letters per week.

"It's a real problem, a very serious problem," Marsden said. "I don't think it [the ordinance] is the solution, but it's a step in the right direction. This will give us more control."

Police Chief Bruce A. Thomason said his department receives 10 to 20 complaints about transients each month. Until now, his officers have had to rely on other methods to regulate transients, such as laws against aggressive panhandling, public drinking and trespassing on private property. …

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