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Police Increasing Presence Due To Panhandling - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Police Increasing Presence Due To Panhandling

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) - Jim Gray and Police Chief Mark Barnard announced that they have heard the concerns over the surge of panhandling in Lexington and they are working to make changes. 

Complaints about panhandling have led police to increase patrols in parts of Lexington. The department has increased patrols with three different teams, some in plain clothes, in high traffic areas such as downtown and near Nicholasville Road.

Barnard and Gray say that the surge can be blamed on multiple factors, including the panhandling ban being struck down and the warmer weather. Gray said that Lexington is known to be a generous city.

Barnard said during a news conference Thursday that the department is enforcing laws that are in place to keep the public safe.

Gray said that the city is exploring the creation of new ordinances that focus on not banning panhandling, but focusing on pedestrian and street safety.

He said that if you ever feel the panhandling is bordering on harassment, to call the police. 

In February, the city's ordinance against panhandling was thrown out by the State Supreme Court. 

We've gotten several messages from people on Facebook, a few saying they've been approached a half dozen times by beggars during one car ride. The owner of Sav's Grill downtown told us the panhandlers' presence affects business.

But while it is a public concern, this is a complicated problem.

"All I wanna do is go back to work. This is all new to me, being homeless," said John, a homeless man on Russell Cave Road.

Until five months ago, John was a truck driver. But he says with his bum knee, he lost his job, and now the only thing he owns is the truck he sleeps in.

Along different intersections on New Circle Road, you see people holding signs walking car to car, hoping for some quick cash.

"When people get desperate, they're gonna do what they have to do to survive," said John Oliver, who we found panhandling downtown.

Both men say they've been looking for jobs. But so far, no luck, so they beg.

"Panhandling's a very complicated problem," said Emanuelle Burton. "I've given money and felt terrible about that. And I've not given money, and felt terrible about that "

With complaints of panhandlers increasing, Lexington Police have stepped up patrols to monitor them.

"Some of the guys that are being aggressive, I wish they wouldn't do that because that gives the rest of us a bad (name)," said Oliver.

For both John on Russell Cave and John in Phoenix Park, every little bit helps.

"I need gas money. I need insurance money for my truck, so I don't lose it again," said John on Russell Cave.

"I don't enjoy doing it. I'm really embarrassed about doing it and everything, but it's the only alternative I've got," said Oliver.

Since the ordinance was thrown out, the city of Lexington has set up an internal work group to investigate panhandling.

Below are places to you can send someone for food or housing assistance: 

The Salvation Army
736 W Main St
(859) 252-7706
M-F from 9a- 12noon

Hope Center Recovery For Men
250 W Loudon Ave
(859) 225-4673
Open 24 hours

Catholic Action Center
400 E Fifth St
(859) 255-0301
10am-2pm, Monday-Saturday

God's Pantry Food Bank
Broadway Christian Church 
187 North Broadway St
1-2:30 p.m.; 6-7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

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