St. Louis struggling with how to handle panhandlers

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by Ray Preston / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on August 13, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 5:06 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – St. Louis City is trying to crack down on aggressive panhandling. But despite the efforts, the city is not having much success.

The city put up 60 signs at 25 locations stating the rules against panhandling.

The signs warn those asking for money they aren’t allowed to be on the highway ramp, no aggressive begging will be tolerated and they may not interfere with or slow down the traffic.

But the panhandling persists. If there’s a “ground zero” for the city’s efforts, it would be the 14th Street exit ramp off Highway 40.

It was at that location the city put up the first anti-panhandling signs earlier this year.

News 4 went to that location and found Ken Walker doing just what the city is trying to stop.

“I just show ‘em my sign,” said Walker. “Homeless. Please help. Thank you. God bless.”

Residents living nearby complained to city hall that beggars were too demanding and some had stopped using the exit.

One city official told News 4, “It’s ridiculous you can’t even take a certain route to go home because people are so aggressively panhandling.”

It didn’t take long to find drivers who said beggars are getting pushier.

“...Guys walking up to the window, not only here but like Kingshighway and Natural Bridge area,” said one resident.

“I [experienced that] last week on the way to the baseball game,” said another. “[I felt a] little unsafe, but you know you wave to them, smile and keep on moving.”

The city says handling the panhandlers is a work in progress. Officials told us there will be an upcoming push for more public education telling people not to support a panhandler’s alcohol or drug addiction.

They also say there will be more enforcement. There were five citations written in the last couple weeks for panhandling.

As for Ken Walker, as he walked away he called us back and asked one more thing: did we have money we could give him?

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