Panhandlers no longer a problem in Longwood

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LONGWOOD, Fla. - Drivers in one central Florida city no longer have to deal with people begging for money at busy intersections.

Longwood police patrolled three busy intersections after residents complained about panhandlers. Now months later, the problem is solved.

Busy intersections provide a captive audience for panhandlers who often get cash from drivers waiting for red lights at busy intersections.  

"I just go out and fly my sign," said Jeffrey who wouldn’t give his last name to Channel nine Anchor Jorge Estevez.

The panhandlers don’t see a problem with standing at the corner.

"We are not doing back flips in front of their vehicles or anything," said Jeffrey who used to panhandle in Longwood until the city began their crackdown.

"One particular day there were three solicitors on three corners,” said Officer Kevin Tuck as he showed Estevez where the panhandlers would stand at the busy intersection of 4-34 and 17-92 in Longwood.

 Tuck has spends several nights a month attending community forums and homeowner’s associations’ meetings to get constant feedback from the Longwood community.

Tuck said the panhandlers are drawn to Longwood because residents there are generous.

"They came from Orlando, park their vehicles, get out and receive about 200 dollars a day," said Tuck.

Longwood Police decided to do something about it. They got a trespass letter and combined it with Florida Statue, 316.2045, that states a person can't stifle, impede, or restrict the flow of traffic without a permit.  

If they do, then they can be arrested.

"It's a Misdemeanor. It takes them off the streets for a day," said Tuck.

Removing the panhandlers helps nearby businesses where panhandlers used to loiter asking for money.

"They would come in here and say, ‘that guy just asked for money out there,’ it would bother them," said Kevin Reyes who works at a barbershop at the corner of 434 and 17-92.   

The new initiative which lasted 3 months, landed 15 people in jail and sent a message to panhandlers.

“We don't have any options out here because we are getting chased around," said Jeffrey.