by: Peter Daut Updated:
CHARLOTTE - Nowhere in Charlotte is panhandling a bigger problem than uptown.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department is paying closer attention to the issue, and now bringing help to those who genuinely need it.
Uptown business owner Barry Leeson said he's dealt with plenty of panhandlers over the years. "It'll be the same story over and over again. And you could give it to him one day, and you'll meet the same guy three weeks later, and he's using the exact same story on you," Leeson said.
Panhandling is not illegal, but aggressive panhandling-- including asking for money after dark, or asking a second time after being denied-- is.
For the first time ever, CMPD has two officers dedicated to homeless outreach and getting panhandlers off the streets.
"It's a new thing we implemented, and we've been having success with it recently," officer Brad Hall said.
Hall and officer Bob Goodwin say 90 percent of Charlotte's panhandlers are not homeless, and can earn up to $150 a day.
"That's their career. They actually come up to panhandle for a living," Goodwin said.
According to a recent survey, more than half of all Charlotte's homeless live in CMPD's Central Division, which includes uptown.
CMPD is part of a task force with several organizations to directly connect the homeless with services that include shelter and counseling.
David Simmons is homeless and says he's grateful for the efforts.
"At least somebody's trying to help somebody," he said.
The task force is also looking at strengthening city ordinances, and creating an exclusion zone for panhandlers. The group meets every few months.