HPD sees spike in complaints about aggressive panhandlers


by Rucks Russell / KHOU 11 News


Posted on September 1, 2011 at 12:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Sep 1 at 10:19 AM

HOUSTON —Complaints about aggressive panhandlers are on the rise in Houston’s Midtown area, and some victims are demanding that the city does more to stop it.

“They’re out there doing it 24 hours a day,” said Steve Mueller, who said he felt intimidated during a recent confrontation with a panhandler.

The incident occurred last Friday in a McDonald’s restaurant parking lot across from the Greyhound Bus Station on Main Street.

“Some guy approached my wife and I as we left and demanded money claiming that he had been watching our car. We told him no but he stared at us looking like he would attack us,” Mueller said.

The harassment seems common. Some diners who frequent sidewalk cafés in the area said some panhandlers won’t take no for an answer.

“They get mad and reach right over your food,” said Ashley Thompson.

Another diner called the situation out of hand.

“They’ve definitely become more aggressive,” said Brandon Williams.

Recently, Houston City Council adopted an ordinance that establishes an 8-foot buffer zone between panhandlers and sidewalk cafes.

Houston police officials said there’s been a spike in complaints about aggressive panhandling, and that HPD has measures in place to address the issue.

A panhandler called “Batman” on the streets said a lot of people are desperate for help.

“We’re just trying to survive. That’s all,” he said.

But one victim refuses to give.

“I think it’s extortion,” said Mueller.