Downtown panhandlers getting braver, more handsy

Panhandlers in Columbus have become more aggressive since Columbus police have loosened their leashes. Cops began turning a blind eye to panhandlers back in July after someone in Arizona sued sign holders in 2015 and lost. Rather than dealing with a lawsuit, police haven’t been pushing the issue.

Now, beggars are taking advantage of it.

The Columbus Dispatch reports downtown sergeants saying panhandlers are literally grabbing people by the hand and asking for money. This behavior has ramped up near venues like the Columbus Athenaeum, Ohio Theater, and Nationwide Arena.

Although cops won’t specifically go after people for panhandling, they are able to charge individuals with disorderly conduct and obstructing city sidewalks.

The Dispatch spoke with Lisa Defendiefer, deputy director for operations and advocacy for the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District Downtown, who interviewed 18 of the 25 regular downtown beggars. Two-thirds admitted to using money they were given to buy drugs and alcohol.



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