NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - After a FOX 8 story on aggressive panhandlers last week, the New Orleans Police Department stepped up enforcement over the weekend, issuing multiple citations in the French Quarter.
Businesses on Decatur complained about the nuisance panhandlers that seemed to be harassing customers as they tried to enter shops and stores.
"We hear their concerns and we're going to step up enforcement as we see fit, but there's another side to this. The other side is that some of these people, their mere presence in a public place is not in and of itself illegal. So if we see a crime and hear of crimes and have reports of crimes, we'll absolutely take enforcement action," said Commander Nick Gernon with NOPD's Eighth District.
Business managers say they've seen a difference on the street, but they know the enforcement must continue it they want to see real change.
"Nobody really wants to see this, you know. They scare people, they have dogs, they constantly ask for money. It's not nice for the business owners, they can't make any money," said one business manager who did not want to be named. "It seems a little better with the police and all, but not strong enough. They got to be real forceful now because there's so many of them they just keep coming constantly."
Gernon said his district will increase the use of undercover officers as a way to catch aggressive panhandlers in the act.
"If a uniform police officer walks by, they're not gonna do anything. So we're going to continue to use under covers with a mixture of uniform officers to make sure we're enforcing some of those laws, especially that aggressive solicitation that makes people feel unsafe as they're moving around the quarter," Gernon said.
Gernon said visitors and businesses can alert them through the French Quarter Task Force app or call the district to inform them of nuisance panhandlers.