"People are well-meaning and want to help, but this is a safety issue," Ambrose said, multiple media sources reported. "We have panhandlers wading into traffic at busy exit ramps off Route 280 [a 17.85-mile Interstate Highway in New Jersey] or on McCarter Highway [in northern New Jersey], which jeopardizes their own health. We had a female pedestrian killed on McCarter Highway just a few weeks ago."
"When a driver stops and gives a panhandler money, they're basically helping them feed bad habits," Ambrose added. "We want to discourage this, but while offering these panhandlers significant and meaningful help."
In the weeks since the law went into effect, 90 summonses have been issued by Newark police. So far, around 250 people have been cited for panhandling. The $50 fine, which appears to be for both stopping and soliciting, does not include court costs.
According to Ambrose, the new law is part of the city's initiative to help its homeless, whose lives may be in jeopardy when they are standing nearby moving traffic.
Newark Hope One, a mobile police unit, is now offering services, including addiction recovery and housing assistance, to areas where panhandlers often collect. So far, the police unit has helped more than 120 homeless people get access to such services during 2019.
"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 noted. "We're coming to them, and giving them a pathway to improve their lives."