Aggressive panhandling a growing problem - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Aggressive panhandling a growing problem

Memphis Police officials said Wednesday panhandlers in the city have gotten more aggressive in recent weeks, while other Memphians said hurricane evacuees are to blame.

Ovell Irby doesn't call himself a panhandler. He says he helps people on Beale Street and in exchange they give him money.

Irby says he can make up to 100 dollars a day by Beale Street, but says recently more aggressive panhandlers have given people like him a bad name.

"They judge everybody by one person," he said. "So a few panhandlers who are kind of aggressive messes it everybody."

Irby says he's noticed a crackdown by police recently. MPD officials say many of these new aggressive panhandlers showed up in Memphis after Hurricane Katrina.

"We have noticed an increase on aggressive panhandlers," said Inspector Matt McCann with the Memphis Police Department, "those individuals who come up and will not leave you alone, that obstruct your path, or persist, or use foul language."

City Council Member Rickey Peete says he has compassion for the homeless, but says the new aggressive style of panhandling is hurting downtown business.

Peete says police are doing what they can, but the law needs to be tougher.

"We have a law in place that needs to be tweaked," he said. If not, Peete fears, patrons of downtown businesses will stay away.

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