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Knoxvillians say panhandling still a problem

10:57 PM, Oct 26, 2012   |    comments
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Six years after the city of Knoxville passed an ordinance banning aggressive panhandling in its limits, residents say they still see it happening around town.

Businesses like Trio on Market Square say sometimes panhandlers will bother customers who eat outdoors on their patio.

"It makes customers uncomfortable and we want to make everyone here really comfortable," said Trio employee Patrick Tice.  "That's the point of a restaurant."

Downtown resident Hayley Gregg said panhandlers stop there occasionally as well.

"It happens more so while we're walking or if we stopped across the street or something," she said.

The Central Business Improvement District is teaming up with KPD and the Cumberland Avenue Merchants Association to stop the problem, according to CBID Director Michele Hummel.  She said there is some concern the problem is growing.

"With the down economy, I think more people are panhandling," she said.

KPD Sergeant Donny Huskey told 10News it is important not to give money to people who are asking for it on the street.  According to Angie Hatcher Sledge, vice-president of development for Knox Area Rescue Ministries, the act enables panhandlers.

"You're just making it easier for them to stay out on the street instead of seeking help," she said.

Sledge said KARM is one of the places people can get help if they need it.  She said one of the organization's graduation used to make up to $500 a day pretending to be a 15-year-old while panhandling.

If a person is caught aggressively panhandling, they are susceptible to a $50 citation, according to Sgt. Huskey.  The following acts are illegal under the city of Knoxville's ordinance.

•  After sunset and before sunrise

• After sunset and before sunrise

• By repeatedly asking a person

• Using abusive language or profanity

• In an aggressive manner in a public area

• In parking lots or garages owned by the City of Knoxville

• On private property if the owner has a sign posted or has asked the person to stop

• From motorists in traffic

• From persons waiting in line to be admitted to a commercial establishment

• By falsely representing why they are seeking money

• Or within 20 feet of:
  1. A crosswalk
  2. An entrance or exit of any bank or check cashing business
  3. An ATM
  4. Public restrooms
  5. Pay phones
  6. Sidewalk café or outdoors dining area
  7. A bus stop or bus station

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