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Homeless woman arrested for violating County panhandling ordinance

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sarah L Harless, 40, whose listed address is GRACE Marketplace, was arrested yesterday morning for violating the County’s ordinance on panhandling in a median.

At about 9:50 a.m yesterday, an Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputy reportedly watched Harless walk to the median at 7600 W. Newberry Road, place her personal belongings on the ground, and take out a cardboard sign that said, “Help me today. Jesus bleeds love.”

The deputy wrote that he had issued Harless a verbal warning the previous week, so he used the public announcement speaker on his patrol car to order her to leave the median. Harless allegedly responded by giving him “the bird” while remaining in the median.

The deputy wrote that as he drove toward the median, Harless gathered her belongings and began to walk away, continuing across two lanes of traffic while he ordered her to stop. He then reportedly stopped traffic with his patrol vehicle and ordered her to stop; when she complied, he arrested her.

Following a search incident to arrest, Harless reportedly had a social security card that didn’t belong to her, a Bradford County Sheriff’s ID card that did not belong to her, a driver’s license that did not belong to her, and multiple small hand tools that could be used as burglary tools.

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Harless was charged with violation of a County ordinance and released on her own recognizance.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

  • Wow, I live here and this may be the first arrest of it’s kind. Law enforcement does not enforce that particular law. They are everywhere, we are overwhelmed with them and yet the authorities actually do nothing at all about them, because we are a sanctuary city (isn’t that a thrill).

    • That charge was frequently used prior to 2014 when there was a court ruling against a similar ordinance elsewhere. There is a usable statute regarding hindering traffic to make or give solicitations. Numerous arrests we’re made in the 2007-2010 time frame under it, including issuing court dates to parties making donations and hindering traffic. Endorsement under that statute was highly discouraged by LE supervisors.

  • I wonder how long it is before we see her on a different median…
    I hope the fake IDs were not returned to her…
    The revolving door of crime continues.
    LEO did their job…
    The criminal injustice system keeps itself in business.

  • What makes anyone think this will stop. Since the ordinance was passed I’ve only seen one time an officer told a panhandler to get off the median. Also her own recognizance — really — someone who carries all kinds of fake ID oh yeah she’ll show up to court!

  • It’s a public safety issue…she was in the median….Great job by the Sheriffs’ department! —I always post here, “can’t they do something about the panhandlers in the median”? —I should not be seeing one panhandling “climate change refugee” in the median holding a sign anywhere because our community has Grace Marketplace…”the 10 year backfiring boondoggle plan to end homelessness”…. I saw in a Bielarski for mayor flyer that the city wants a 2nd biomass plant. Any truth to that?

  • I cannot make ends meet. I worked hard during 1971-1990, when $2.75 was considered good pay. But SS/SSDI IS tiered by the paychecks I received back then. It is very hard to live with todays prices on yesterday’s paycheck. Congress, YOU HAVE LOTS OF MONEY. How about sharing it?

  • That is the FIRST arrest for this that I have heard of in the several years since it was passed. How about 200 more? Cops are already using the “can’t hear your music beyond 25 feet” to roust people, this one should be easy, panhandling on the median, arrest.

  • The deputies leave the jail and drive right past 3 panhandlers on 3 “less than 6foot medians” at NW 39th Ave and Waldo Road ALL DAY LONG and never make them leave. There is a CHAIR that stays on one spot.
    Would like to see some consistent enforcement. Teetering on 2 foot medians during 8 am or 5pm traffic is dangerous.

  • I believe some recent court rulings said panhandling is covered under 1st Amendment / free speech

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