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Increase in panhandlers on street corners

CINCINNATI (Rich Jaffe) -- There are times when they seem to be on virtually every street corner.

We're talking about panhandlers and there seems to be a significant rise in the number of them all around the area.  While it's hard to quantify things like the number of homeless people, Local 12's Rich Jaffe found that even the panhandlers admit competition for your money is increasing on the street.

Some of the guys who panhandle around downtown Cincinnati have been around for years.  But in the last few weeks the community has noticed a lot of new faces and that means life on the streets is getting tougher for everybody.

His nickname is "Cancer Man" because of the sign he always holds.  But his real name is Curt.  He's been panhandling at the same intersection for years, Local 12's Rich Jaffe drives by him almost every day.  Curt is always polite, never demanding and sometimes even successful.

Curt told Jaffe, "It's a matter of survival and although it may look easy and may look like the lazy bum stereo type, guys and gals even are out here because they want to work.  They want to be productive, they want to put something in their pocket."

Lately Curt has had a lot of company.  New panhandlers that aren't as "courteous."

He says, "For the veterans, if you will, that have been here for a while we execute certain things like consideration, respect.  Somebody's gonna take the time, pull their car over, and give you some money the first thing you would think would better do is show them a little respect."

Sam Walker's a professional driver for a local automotive business.  He and his boss have noticed the increase in panhandlers around their shop and they don't like it.

Walker says, "I just think it's a bad look for the city people coming in to town.  Think it's a poverty stricken area when it's not that bad an area but these people they tend to just be in the way with their signs, 'I'm homeless,' 'Homeless vet,' 'Will work,' not a good look for the city."

The other panhandlers Rich Jaffe tried to talk with weren't as pleasant as Curt.  One guy said we were ruining his business.  Curt says he even tries to explain to the new guys there's kind of a panhandling code of ethics.

"I usually have a word with people if they're gonna panhandle here, they're not gonna hide stuff in the bushes and go drink or get high or whatever these are decent good people that come through here," said Curt.

Curt tells Rich Jaffe his profits are down dramatically over the last few months.  He also says with increased competition for the prime spots, violence is a lot more common. 

It's also important to point out that social service agencies all say giving money to these men and women is not the way to help them.  To help the issue Police will periodically write one of them up for a violation.  One of the business owners told Rich Jaffe he's heard there's a crackdown coming and Local 12 did call the City Managers Office.  But at this point there doesn't appear to be much that anyone can do.  Panhandling is not necessarily illegal but there are ways and places where it is.  For example, it's illegal within 20 feet of a crosswalk or if you're getting into or out of your car. 

CLICK HERE for a link that will give you all the details on legal or illegal panhandling in Cincinnati.

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