Panhandling rampant in US cities with “a reputation for being liberal and tolerant”
Last week one of the big stories in Toronto was news that the Chinatown Business Improvement Area has hired a private security firm to patrol the Spadina Avenue district, to reduce theft and aggressive panhandling, starting with a three-week pilot project.
A new article by Steven Malanga in the City Journal, "The Professional Panhandling Plague," explains that New York’s vigilance in reducing panhandling and squeegee people has not been repeated in other American cities, with very unpleasant results:
But over the last several years, the urban resurgence has proved an irresistible draw to a new generation of spangers. And while New York City’s aggressive emphasis on quality-of-life policing under two successive mayors has kept them at bay, less vigilant cities have been overwhelmed. Indeed, panhandling is epidemic in many places—from cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Memphis, Orlando, and Albuquerque to smaller college towns like Berkeley. “People in New York would be shocked at what one encounters in other cities these days, where the panhandling can be very intimidating,” says Daniel Biederman, a cofounder of three business improvement districts in Manhattan, including the Grand Central Partnership, which grappled effectively with homelessness in the city’s historic train station in the early 1990s. “Panhandling has gotten especially bad in cities that have a reputation for being liberal and tolerant. They have tried to be open-minded, but now many of them see the problem as out of control.”
Like their counterparts back in the eighties, some spangers refuse to take no for an answer. Aggressive begging has grown so common in Memphis that a group of residents, members of an online forum called Handling-Panhandling, have begun photographing those who act in a threatening manner, seeking to help police catch those who violate the law. “One of the guys we photographed for the Handling-Panhandling group last summer was obviously a loose cannon,” forum host Paul Ryburn writes. “When employees of a Beale Street restaurant asked him to stop begging in front of their door, he threatened to stab them.”
Reports of similar incidents are on the increase in many cities. A pizzeria manager in Columbus, Ohio, told the Columbus Dispatch earlier this year that panhandlers were entering the store asking for money, then following women back to their cars to scare them into giving it. “One of the bums threatened to stab me when I asked them to leave two women alone,” the restaurateur added. In Orlando, panhandlers have started entering downtown offices and asking receptionists for money, prompting businesses to lock the doors. San Francisco police have identified 39 beggars who have received five or more citations for aggressive panhandling, racking up a total of 447 citations. Tourist guidebooks and online sites are replete with warnings from travelers. A business visitor to Nashville, sharing his experiences on Fodor.com, writes: “Every day I was there I was not just approached but grabbed or touched by folks asking for money.” A traveler to San Francisco, describing his trip on Virtualtourist.com, warns prospective tourists about the pervasiveness of persistent beggars: “If you come to San Francisco and are not hit up for change, you have spent too much time in your hotel room.”
The lengthy and very interesting article is here.