Fredericton — Over the past 22 months, Fredericton police have handed out more than 100 tickets for panhandling. Ninety-eight of these were prosecution tickets, while 7 were just warnings.
The minimum amount of each ticket is $140, or about 6 months of light to moderate panhandling. If these needy citizens can hope to pay their fines, they will have to pull up their socks and panhandle like they’ve never panhandled before.
Martin Haines, a homeless man in the capital city, said an officer ticketed him for panhandling in July, and as of this week he’s managed to save up $138. “It was that last toonie that did me in,” he said, his face filled with frustration. “I almost had enough to pay my ticket, and that same cop saw me asking a guy for 2 bucks outside the bank. Now I have another $140 fine! At this rate I’ll never break even.”
A Manatee reporter asked Staff Sgt. Kim Quartermain of the Fredericton Police Department whether hitting beggars with fines was the best way to fight panhandling.
“We are here to serve and protect the public,” said Quartermain.
“OK… well can you explain why it is most of these fines remain unpaid?” asked our reporter.
“We are here to serve and protect the public,” Quartermain repeated, her facial expression unchanged.
Our reporter looked confused and slightly creeped-out before saying, “… That’s not what I asked… did you hear me wrong?” Quartermain explained that “We are here to serve and protect the public” is her usual blanket response to reporter queries, and it’s never failed until now.
As this interview proved futile, The Manatee sought out Warren Maddox, the executive director for the Fredericton Homeless Shelters. Maddox said ticketing panhandlers is not a solution to a homelessness problem, and that the police should have figured that out by now. “The tickets aren’t being paid, and when these people who are cold, hungry, and otherwise down on their luck can’t pay up, police just throw them in prison. It makes no sense.
“I tried to talk about it with Sgt. Quartermain, but she just kept repeating ‘We are here to serve and protect the public,'” he said. “It was some eerie shit.”
Fredericton citizens can look forward to seeing more innovative, and possibly more aggressive methods from resourceful panhandlers desperate to pay their mounting fines. Citizens can also look forward to police being here to serve and protect the public.