ATLANTA -- Harsher penalties could be on the way for some of Atlanta's panhandlers.
City Council Member Michael Julian Bond is calling for longer jail time for "aggressive panhandlers," those who follow people and physically or verbally harass them while soliciting donations.
Last Monday, he proposed an amendment to the current panhandling ordinance that would extend their maximum jail time from 30 days to six months.
"We are going after a very specific subset of individuals," Bond told 11Alive's Blayne Alexander. "We are not targeting all panhandlers. We're going after the aggressive ones, the repeat offenders who are gaming the system."
In 2005, the city made national headlines by passing an ordinance to make panhandling illegal in certain parts of downtown. After a third offense, one could spend 30 days in jail.
The arrestee would also be referred to various homeless services and, if needed, mental evaluation and treatment.
Hundreds of people slept outside of City Hall in protest of the 2005 measure. Community activist and former city council member Derrick Boazman was among them.
"You can not criminalize homelessness," he said. "You can't just arrest away the problem. You need a long term solution."
Bond says he is getting more complaints from people who say they've been harassed. Under the current ordinance, he says, there is not enough of a deterrent for this behavior; all panhandlers are subject to the same penalties.
The amendment will first be discussed in committee meeting before going in front of the full council next month.