Raleigh, N.C. — During the down economy, panhandling-related offenses are on the rise in Raleigh. So far this year, police have arrested 212 people on charges, such as panhandling without a permit, loitering and pedestrian interference.
During the same time last year, 162 people had been arrested.
Martin Sansalone said he knows how to panhandle within the city’s guidelines. He has been asking for money on the corner of Interstate 440 and Poole Road for four years.
The 62-year old says, for him, begging is about survival.
"I couldn't pay the bills,” he said.
Sansalone lives in a homeless campsite in the woods near the intersection.
“We are just gambling out here right now,” he said of life on the streets.
On a good day, Sansalone said he can make $20 an hour panhandling, but he must have a permit from the Raleigh Police Department.
"Oh yeah, I got a permit,” he said Monday afternoon.
The permits last a year and without one, beggars could be arrested and fined.
Thomas Mills was charged Friday with begging without a permit, according to an arrest warrant. The 38-year-old homeless man was taken into custody on the corner of I-440 and Hillsborough Street.
“If they are going to be panhandling, begging in the city of Raleigh, they are expected to have that permit,” said Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue.
The permits are free, but a photo ID is needed to apply.
“Once it is made certain they are not people who are wanted for anything, then a permit can be issued to them,” Sughrue said.
The permits are designed to help police identify the panhandlers, while also pointing out guidelines. The permit asks that there be no aggressive begging and no blocking traffic. Panhandlers are also advised to stay away from ATM machines and to operate between the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.