21 arrested for aggressive panhandling over 2 weeks in Rochester

March 31, 2017 07:14 PM

Rochester police have made 21 arrests for aggressive panhandling over the last two weeks -- that is higher than normal.

Asking for money in Rochester is not against the law, but doing it aggressively is. That means following people down the street or knocking on the window of someone's car and what the court papers tell us is that Rochester police have started putting people in jail.

Twenty-one times over two weeks. Rochester police have arrested aggressive panhandlers. Three people -- two men and a woman -- were in front a City Court judge Friday morning. The two men were picked up at the same spot on St. Paul Street five hours apart. The woman was arrested at East Main Street and the Inner Loop.

Click here to read the aggressive panhandling law.

Michael O'Leary, Temple Bar and Grille: "Panhandling has always been an issue in downtown."

Michael O'Leary owns the Temple Bar and Grille on East Avenue.

O'Leary: "We'd love to be able to help the panhandlers. We'd love to find a solution, but when they're being aggressive, banging on car windows or chasing people down the street unfortunately they're chasing people away from downtown."

Lieutenant Rob Wilson leads the RPD's downtown section. 

Brean: "21 tickets for aggressive panhandling in two weeks. Is that normal or above normal?"

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Lt. Rob Wilson, Rochester Police Department: "I would say it's above normal right now."

Brean: "Why do many recently?" 

Wilson: "We've changed our tactics a little bit."

Police are using unmarked cars and plain clothes police. 

Brean: "But why more arrests now? Is it because we're out of winter?"

Lt. Rob Wilson, Rochester Police Department: "Well I think you're seeing increased activity. There's more people out."

But look at this: One man, Kimberlin Coleman, has been arrested for aggressive panhandling three times in the past two weeks. Every time he spends a night in jail and then he's back on the street.

Brean: "Is it effective?"

Lt. Rob Wilson, Rochester Police Department: "It's a problem we're not going to arrest our way out of."

Lt. Wilson works in the city's downtown section. He says every time they arrest someone for aggressive panhandling, they give them an information sheet. It includes the names of shelters, churches and offices where men and women who beg for money can get food, a bed and help.

Lt. Wilson: "Unfortunately the people we see asking for money aren't using that money for food and shelter typically. They're using it for other things is our experience. Using it for substance abuse issues that they can't get at a shelter or soup kitchen."


Berkeley Brean

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