Panhandling remains a problem, although cases are down during pandemic

Published on September 17, 2020

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had some interesting effects on panhandling in Fort Worth. Fewer reports are being made, although the Police Department continues to use a multi-pronged approach to deal with the problem.

Panhandling calls received during the first seven months of 2020 were down 53% from the same period in 2019. Across the city, panhandling calls, citations and reports have decreased considerably, with the exception of the North Division. During the pandemic, many residents have been staying home, which could account for the lower number of calls received.

Another variable associated with the pandemic was that officials limited the number of people taken to the Fort Worth City Jail to help minimize COVID-19 exposure.

In 2017, Fort Worth established the Aggressive Panhandling Ordinance, which clarified a previous ordinance with clear definitions and gave police officers a better tool to address problems associated with aggressive panhandling. Even with those changes, there are still concerns surrounding aggressive panhandling.

The Fort Worth Police Department takes a multi-step approach when dealing with panhandling complaints. Once a complaint is received or a violation is observed, officers attempt to gain compliance by educating the violator about available resources and notifying them of the current city ordinance prohibiting aggressive panhandling.

If those education efforts fail, a citation is issued. If the citation does not correct the behavior, a custodial arrest can be made. A custodial arrest is only used when all other efforts to gain compliance have failed.

How to report panhandling

Instead of giving money to panhandlers, officials encourage residents to donate to the many local charities that assist with helping homeless people in need. Donating this way ensures that the money being donated goes toward helpful services and not harmful addictions.

To report panhandling, call the FWPD nonemergency number at 817-392-4222. Or call 911 if the panhandler is acting in an aggressive or threatening manner.

Residents who are willing to help can text FWCHANGE to 41444 and their donations will benefit the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. The donated funds will help provide housing-related services such as application fees and security deposits; bus tickets; motel vouchers for families; and mattresses.

 

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