CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Statistics obtained by KRIS 6 reveal that Corpus Christi Police rarely cite or arrest people for violating the city's ordinances regarding panhandling.
"We will warn folks and work with them," CCPD Assistant Chief Mark Schauer said. "But unless they come right back on the spot, we're not usually going to cite them or make an action."
The Corpus Christi Municipal Court records, obtained using open-records requests, show that zero citations have been issued for aggressive panhandling, which occurs when someone asking you for money touches you in any way or causes you fear. But Schauer said the ordinance does give officers the right to intervene in aggressive panhandling cases.
"It's a constitutional thing to be able to ask somebody for something, but then not to make them feel like they're in fear," Schauer said. "So (the ordinance) was written for that purpose, and that's really been a good ordinance for us."
Police have issued citations for another panhandling ordinance, though not many. It's illegal to ask for money by a roadway without wearing a reflective safety vest. Records from the municipal court show that in the six years that ordinance has been on the books, officers have written 20 tickets for it.
"The goal's not to see how many citations we can issue," Schauer said. "It's to curb behavior."
Panhandling of any kind is forbidden in the Downtown, Uptown, and North Beach areas, but Downtown businesses still are seeing it.
"We do occasionally see panhandlers in the Downtown area," Downtown Management District Communication and Events Manager Jordan Michael said. "We occasionally hear from business owners who come across it periodically."
The Downtown Management District tries to improve the image of Downtown Corpus Christi and bring in more people and businesses. Panhandling hurts those efforts.
"We do encourage business owners and anyone who may come across panhandling, if they ever feel the need to, if they ever feel threatened, if they're ever unsafe, to definitely call the police, so we can be aware of what's going on and so that this issue can be tracked and taken care of," Michael said.
Panhandler "Skpy" -- pronounced Skippy -- wasn't wearing a reflective safety vest when KRIS 6 interviewed him Wednesday as he worked the corner of South Padre Island Drive and Staples Street. He didn't have anything to say about the city's panhandling ordinances, but he did talk about the reaction he gets to his handmade signs that read "anything green?" "bad legal advice by the hour," and "At least give me the finger."
"Some people give me dirty looks," Skpy said. "Some people laugh. It's all good though. As long as they make eye contact, that's worth it."
Schauer has some advice for people who want to help people like Skpy.
"When you're giving to folks, the best thing you can really do is to give to a charity," he said. "Give to a non-profit that can filter that money and use it appropriately."