Downtown workers concerned about aggressive panhandling

CINCINNATI (Rich Jaffe) -- If people have spent any time around the Hamilton County Courthouse, panhandlers probably approached them.While some follow the city laws and just hold signs, others get much more aggressive. That's illegal, but it's a tough law to enforce. If people go to the courthouse they either have to park in one of the nearby pay lots or at the meters on Court Street. Wherever people park, they're an easy target for people who make their living on the street.In the city of Cincinnati it's illegal to aggressively, verbally ask people for money or follow them to their cars panhandling. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. One young woman and her boyfriend were regular fixtures on Court Street. They actively solicit money from people all day long.When it comes to panhandling, many people like April Fix, who works inside the county administration building, said, "That it's extremely aggravating. We need to have patrols down here. It needs to go away. Something needs to be done about it."On occasion it even goes from illegal to downright dangerous, April told Local 12 News, "They'll follow you. I've been followed to my car. I had to report it where they just kept following me and I wouldn't give them cash and they tried to get into my car."Scott , a panhandler, said he's well aware of the city laws and makes it a point to stay within the boundaries. But even he said the aggressive panhandlers make it tough to make a buck for the people trying to follow the rules.Scott said, "They're aggressive on it. They'll walk up to you and say, 'Hey, can you give me some money to get on a bus,' or whatever. I just smile say have a good day. And the way I look at it, help comes if help comes if not then whatever."The Street Vibes magazine which many of the street people sell, is supposed to help the homeless. One guy got angry when Local 12 News told him no thanks and he threatened to call the boss and tell him Local 12 didn't want to help them!Carey Theobald has lived downtown and recently moved back from Florida. She was shocked by all the people on the streets.She said the panhandlers occasionally give them trouble at Kitty's Coffee Shop, "You just sort of become accustomed to it but I really do feel for the people that come for family activities, from the suburbs. We've had people sitting here at our tables, really scared and afraid of people, so it's an issue for people. Not me so much because I'm used to it."The issue is very much on the radar screen for Sheriff Jim Neal. The sheriff's office is working on getting more surveillance cameras on buildings in the area to increase the security, and they've got some other plans as well.A spokesman for Sheriff Neal told Local 12 News deputies write about 50 citations a month for panhandling related offenses. But the issue really becomes what to do with the offenders since jail space is so limited.

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