Local News

Panhandlers Do Little to Improve Downtown Image

Posted June 8, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Raleigh has been trying to bring more people and businesses to the downtown area for years. But there's one stumbling point. What do you do with the homeless who spend time on Fayetteville Street Mall ?

Advocates of downtown revitalization have been working hard to attract more businesses to the Fayetteville Mall region. But one of the biggest obstacles is the influx of panhandlers who frequent the area.

You can get a permit to panhandle in the city of Raleigh. People who work and eat lunch on Fayetteville Mall say they are frequently approached by beggars.

The problem increases in the summer, when more people are inclined to be outside. It's a common problem in any city, but it certainly will not help Raleigh attract more shoppers and businesses to the downtown area.

Police say they're doing what they can within the law to stop aggressive begging.

"My officers have identified people that have begging permits," explains Sgt. David Brown. "We keep a high police presence on those people who actually have those permits to beg to make sure they don't violate those permits. So, we do know some of the people that have permits, and who do it on a routine basis."

Begging is legal. You can get a permit. Raleigh police say they have issued some 98 permits so far. Aggressive begging is illegal, and can result in a citation. Many of the panhandlers are homeless, and therein lies a separate problem. WRAL will examine some of the resources available for the homeless, many of whom are substance abusers or are mentally ill, during the 6:00 p.m. report Tuesday.