City of Arlington discouraging public from handing cash to panhandlers
ARLINGTON (CBSNewsTexas) - The City of Arlington is running a new pilot program to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers after receiving an increase in complaints about the issue.
At intersections where you may have often seen people asking for cash, now you'll see signs with a clear message to drivers: "It's ok to say no to panhandlers."
"If the desire is to help folks who are unhoused, there are more effective and direct ways to do that other than giving to someone at the side of the road because that can create an unsafe situation," said Arlington Deputy City Manager Jennifer Wichmann.
The city is encouraging people to donate to shelters or nonprofits that help the homeless. The signs direct them to where to go for more information.
"We've had about a 300% increase on traffic to our website that focuses on our homeless population," said Wichmann.
The signs are just one part of the pilot program the city is implementing to address pubic concerns about panhandling.
Arlington police have also started remotely monitoring traffic cameras at nine intersections known for being panhandling hotspots. If they notice unsafe activity and aren't working higher priority calls, officers will then be dispatched to those locations.
"Police do a great job when they approach these folks of seeing what help is needed first, help them solve that problem so they don't have to seek income in this pretty dangerous and difficult way," Wichmann said.
City ordinance prohibits panhandlers from stepping into the streets to accept donations.
Officers usually give them a warning instead of a ticket, and then educate them on the hazards of soliciting in this way.
"We're just trying to figure out the best way to solve the problem, and really solving the problem for us is ensuring that we get these folks some sort of assistance in probably a more efficient and effective way than how they're currently seeking it with the panhandling, and keeping folks safe," said Wichmann.
The city also plans to redesign two intersections, at Matlock and Sublett roads and Randol Mill Road and Green Oaks Boulevard, to make it more difficult for panhandlers to enter the road from the medians. They will likely be built early next year.
City staff will monitor the effectiveness of this pilot program and bring initial results to the council at the end of the summer.
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