Business leaders come together to stop Memphis panhandling

Panhandlers have become so aggressive Downtown that business leaders are coming together to support a recent campaign to put a stop to it. Midtowners now say that's only half of the problem.

Side Street Grill Manager Richie Elia says a longtime Midtown panhandler showed him a new side of the problem.

"He dropped off a bag of his fecal matter basically on our patio in front of everybody who was trying to eat and drink and have a good time and just left it there," he explained.

Young Avenue Deli Owner Tiger Bryant says panhandlers use his parking lot to get cash from his customers every night. He too has noticed more aggressive behavior lately. He says some panhandlers even do it inside his restaurant.

Jim Kovarik of the Cooper-Young Neighborhood Association calls aggressive panhandling the downside of a booming Midtown," We've succeeded beyond our wildest dreams and all of that which it attracts, which is trash, garbage, crime and panhandlers," Kovarik said.

Memphis Police say the biggest challenge is they have to catch panhandlers red-handed. Business owners say that is their biggest frustration. "Some of the panhandlers seem to know the response time 'cause they'll hang out just long enough and start walking off as the police are coming," said Bryant.

The people of Midtown are using their strong community connection to get on top of the problem.

"The Neighborhood Association is doing things constantly. We have a safety committee, we have block clubs, we have an email alert network and a strong word of mouth," Kovarik explained.

Kovarik says police are very cooperative, but their hands are often tied by the laws they uphold. If police don't see the panhandler in the act, it's up to citizens to swear out warrants on that panhandler. The problem with that is police don't want people to put themselves at risk to do so.