Quarter businesses, residents complain about 'aggressive' panhandling

Quarter businesses, residents complain about 'aggressive' panhandling

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - On the warm first evening of fall, street performers entertained along Bourbon Street, but some say something else is happening on the streets that must end.

"Right now we have Bourbon Street in pretty bad shape in terms of very aggressive solicitation," said Robert Watters.

"We see more people begging on the streets, we see more people sitting in doorways, we see more people passed out on the sidewalks," said Emily Remington with the French Quarter Management District.

"I sit out here with my bucket and have fun," said one homeless man.

He sits along Decatur Street and insists he never begs, but his bucket is front and center.

Reporter: "So what are you hoping to get out here?"

Man: "As much as I can, and that's no lie. Somedays it's good and some days it's not so good."

Members of the French Quarter Management District say the problem has taken a turn for the worse.

"We've had instances where somebody will come out of a restaurant and a substance will be squirted on their shoes, and without any request you will have them surrounded by two or three people and they say, 'Are you going to pay for having your shoes shined?' And that is an assault, and it's actually illegal," Watters said.

And they say it's not just a problem in the French Quarter, but also in areas of downtown.

"We're hoping to better understand what the issues are on both sides of Canal," Remington said.

They say the over-the-top solicitation hurts businesses and turns off tourists, but some disagree.

"It's not a turnoff, it's a way of life," said Len Hollander who was visiting from New Jersey. "It happens to people."

Hollander dropped some money in the homeless man's bucket.

"Help these people," he said. "How would you feel if you were sitting here and he was standing here? Wouldn't you want a little something?"

But police say it's the aggression that they're concerned about.

"It's important that we clean it up, and it's important that we send a message that that will not be tolerated," said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison.

And he said the crackdown has begun.

"We've have made a number of arrests for the aggressive panhandling and when people are just being overly aggressive with people who live here, and with people who visit here…blocking the sidewalk, threatening, being overly intimidating, and when people have scams and they try to shine your shoes and do things to get you to pay them for that - things that you didn't ask for," Harrison said.

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