Panhandlers say ban will lead to crime increase | News
TAMPA, Florida -- Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made it official on Friday, signing a new law banning people from begging at city street corners.
"Long overdue," Buckhorn said.
But the question of where all those people will go may be a complicated one to answer.
"This is my only source of income," said David Layton, an out of work contractor. "It's just making a bad situation worse."
St. Pete banned panhandling last year. Pasco County did the same this summer. Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bradenton and Sarasota already have bans in place, leaving panhandlers with few options.
Hillsborough County's homeless shelters don't appear to be the solution, because they're all full. "The problem that we have in our community is we simply do not have enough beds to meet the need," said Rayme Nuckles, CEO of the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County.
Some panhandlers are convinced crime, like people just walking up and taking money on the street, or even showing up at front doors, may be their only way to get by.
"I've never been a thief, but crime will go up," said Steve Stafford, an out of work mechanic. "Breaking into homes, breaking into cars, mugging people."
Buckhorn says a possible crime increase is something police are prepared for. "The fact that they are not able to panhandle is no justification for committing other types of criminal activities and we will not tolerate that," he said.
Panhandlers, though, warn a ban may bring a new set of problems.
"I thought they would have learned by what happened over in St. Pete. I mean, officers are getting shot," Layton said. "I don't understand why they would want to do that to Tampa."
The ban takes effect November 1, but police will start issuing warnings immediately.
Violators face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.