Taskforce takes on Tampa panhandling

6:33 PM, Nov 10, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - Panhandlers seeking your change have officials from Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa looking for change. They've formed a taskforce to find the best way to deal with what some call a public safety problem.

If it seems like there are more panhandlers in Tampa since St. Petersburg banned the practice in May, some statistics from the Tampa Police Department appear to back that up. This year compared to last, arrests for aggressive panhandling are up 47%.

The economy may also have something to do with that spike, but just last Sunday, Brian Childress was arrested for pounding on the window of a woman's car. "We feel with the activity in the street, that they may get more assertive," Asst. Tampa Police Chief John Bennett told the taskforce.

On Wednesday, the taskforce also heard from representatives from the city of St. Petersburg, about how the ban on street solicitation is working there. "It (panhandling) was truly getting out of hand in regards to public safety and it passed unanimously," said Rhonda Abbott of the St. Pete ordinance. Abbott is the city's manager of homeless services.

But some advocates for the homeless say that if officials take away panhandling, other resources for help better be in place.

"You're fooling yourself, if you think there isn't middles-class homelessness, because that has arrived in our city," Connie Farrington told the group. "And if you arrest a mom or a dad, what has that really accomplished?"

The Tampa City Council recently rejected a move to ban panhandling, but the issue is likely to reappear, just like the people on the corners at rush hour.



Kathryn Bursch

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