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Aggressive Panhandlers On Roadways Raising Safety Concerns

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Panhandlers in the middle of the Cross Bronx Expressway, walking between lanes and putting drivers in danger. So who's keeping the highways safe?

CBS2's Ali Bauman went demanding answers from both the city and state.

Over a three-day investigation, CBS2 found more than a dozen different people panhandling on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Most holding cardboard signs that read "homeless," and all illegally walking on major thoroughfares.

(Credit: CBS2)

"They're out there in the middle of traffic they could get hit pretty easy," driver Josh Stillman said.

"I understand times get rough, but you can get yourself hurt like that," Sterling Singleton added.

(Credit: CBS2)

Tuesday evening at rush hour, CBS2 saw two men coming out of a large encampment under the Washington Bridge, approaching cars on the ramp to the Trans-Manhattan Expressway.

"It usually causes more traffic. Dangerous for them, dangerous for us, people don't see them," Kwame Alsto explained.

The Cross Bronx Expressway is maintained by the state, but patrolled by city. So keeping people off of it requires a collaboration between both agencies.

"We are working with state DOT and NYPD looking at ways we can put up barriers and do what we can to make sure people aren't crossing onto a highway," DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

"We're not looking to arrest our way out of the situation, we know it's a bigger problem," Asst. Chief Kathleen O'Reilly added.

The NYPD Manhattan Borough Chief says 911 and 311 calls for aggressive panhandling is up six percent in Manhattan compared to this time last year.

"What I'd like to see is if you see someone out there call 911 call 311 and once you make those calls we'll respond," O'Reilly added.

The chief says the city's cleaned up two encampments by the Cross Bronx in the past two weeks. CBS2 still found an encampment in the area.

The city also told CBS2 its homeless services agencies canvas the area twice a week to engage individuals who may be homeless and encourage them to accept help.

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