Posted: Jan 22, 2013 2:15 PM by Janine Reyes
Updated: Jan 23, 2013 2:55 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI - If you frequently run into a convenience store, you've probably been asked for money at some point.
The city tried cracking down on aggressive panhandling two years ago, but some local business owners say its still a big problem.
"It happens all the time, tourists are getting approached. We had a gentleman come into the restaurant yesterday and we had to ask him to leave because he was panhandling the facility," said The Seawall Restaurant owner, Howard Urick.
He actually keeps a binder full of names of all the panhandlers who get so aggressive he sometimes has to call police.
"There's a young lady up there right now who we've had to ask her not to come onto the patio," Urick told us.
That young lady is 57-year-old Susan Benson, she's been arrested at least three times for criminal trespassing in Nueces County and when I approached her, she admitted to that. "So many, quite a few times, one criminal trespass ended up with time in the slammer," Benson told us.
She's obviously down on her luck, but claims all the money she takes is voluntarily handed to her. She says she never asks for it.
"I got these clothes out over at Burger King and a man came up to me and gave me seven dollars," she said.
She admits panhandlers in Corpus Christi can get aggressive. "I've seen, I've witnessed a couple of women say give me money," Benson told us.
That's why the city passed an ordinance in January 2011, it addresses panhandlers on city sidewalks aggressively asking for cash. It's considered aggressive when they don't take no for an answer.
But police say for offenders who regularly end up begging on private property, they'll seek charges of criminal trespass, a class B Misdemeanor, or Aggressive Panhandling which is a class C misdemeanor.
The problem is, many of those people spend their time in jail and end up right back where they started.
Police say all they can do is keep enforcing it, and business owners can do their part by taking a stand.
"We've been here almost two years now, they realize that we've recaptured this area and its not just a haven for the homeless," Urick told us.
Police tell us they've even sent repeat offenders out of town to the state mental ward, but even that doesn't work, because they come right back.
One particular repeat offender is Denise Rice.
We found 87 criminal charges on Rice, including criminal trespassing, theft or worthless checks and drug charges.
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