SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA.com) — City leaders in San Clemente believe the problem of aggressive panhandling has gotten so out-of-hand they want to make it a crime.
“It’s a huge problem. It’s getting worse and worse,” Fred Richardson, a father, told KCAL 9’s Stacey Butler.
Richardson says in his 30 years as a resident, he’s never seen anything like it. He says the panhandlers are so aggressive he is worried for his grown son, Gabriel.
Aggressive and very demanding.
“It’s become really aggressive where people literally come up to you and almost try to force you to give them money or food or whatever,” Richardon says, “In the past, there were just a few people. But there must be close to a hundred or more.”
The city is planning on making it illegal for panhandlers to try to shake people down in public places.
Tiffany Cassano couldn’t agree with the ordinance more.
She says at her family’s pizza business they used to feed the homeless and help them out.
“We used to know them all,” Cassano said, “We knew them by name. I never used to be in fear of any of them.”
Cassano says she is the kind of person who gives but doesn’t understand why she is getting so much flack in return.
“I wanna teach my son to give back. To be kind and generous. Then I go to a restaurant and have someone ask me for money and I’ll say I don’t have my wallet on me. And sorry, I don’t have any money today. And they say a profanity to me…in front of my son?,” she says, “I want to help this person, but my son says why are they being mean to you if you don’t give them money?”
She says some of the panhandlers have become so threatening she has forbidden her son from riding his bike alone while he is downtown.
“I don’t know if they’re on drugs, or mentally incapacitated or gonna snap at him if he says no,” she says.
The law, if passed, would only apply to those panhandlers who touch, hit, or block someone’s way.
Butler spoke to a panhandler named Mudd who said he’s not looking to confront anybody. He just sits on the side of the road and waits to see if someone will help him out.
“I don’t agree with aggressive panhandling,” he said.
If the ordinance is voted on affirmatively in the next meeting, it could become law by mid-August.