Orlando police crack down on panhandling



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Panhandling in the city of Orlando is on the rise, despite efforts to crack down on it.

The number of people who have been arrested is up for the third year in a row.

WFTV reporter Kenneth Craig spotted a panhandler along Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Craig watched as the man illegally begged for money while sitting in a wheelchair. When Craig later saw the man walking, he approached him.

Craig said the man admitted to faking a disability to get the money and said he knew what he was doing is illegal.

"I know it gets to be a problem sometimes. I know it's a problem," said panhandler Mike.

In 2012, Orlando police arrested more than 500 people for illegally panhandling. That's up from 450 arrests in 2011 and more than double the 236 arrests in 2010.

Police said complaints are up and they're not getting strict about enforcing the law.

"No one wants to get accosted all the time by someone asking for money," said Orlando Police spokesman Vincent Ogburn.

There are special zones were people can legally beg for money and the city installed special donation meters last year as an alternative to giving to panhandlers. But police said they know they aren't helping the problem go away and they aren't sure if there is anything that will.

"They're still out there…doing the same thing. Often times we'll arrest the same person more than once," said Ogburn.

"I don't think it's really going to go away. There's no way you can round everybody up and sweep them under the rug," said resident Paul Solorzano.

WFTV found out about half of the people arrested for panhandling in 2012 had been arrested before.