Downtown Tulsa Aggressive Panhandling Complaints Increase, Police Say
TULSA, Oklahoma - Aggressive panhandling has been a problem in downtown Tulsa for years, and police say they’re getting more complaints.
Police say they can't do anything unless a victim is willing to wait for police to get there, file a report, and even go to court.
But they say that's not happening.
Signs in the Tulsa arts district ask people not to pay panhandlers.
"These people are very habitual in their panhandling down here and generally very aggressive," said Club Majestic Manager Chris Shoaf.
He’s lived in the district since 2009.
“Three of the aggressive panhandlers that were there then are still here now," said Shoaf
He said most of the homeless are friendly but a small percentage aren't.
"We have one gentleman down here who's about 6 foot 3 who will run up on people, especially women at night,” Shoaf said.
"They'll come up to people when they're getting in and out of their cars, you know, surprise them,” said Classic Cigars Manager Jeff Greiner.
He said it’s hurting business.
“We're trying to compete with other areas of town, whether it's Utica or Brookside, 71st, so you don't have that over there," Greiner said.
Police say it's a misdemeanor crime.
"If they make any kind of threats to damage you, to vandalize your car … putting their selves between you and where you're going,” said Brandon Davis with the Tulsa Police Department.
Officers say victims will call and complain, but usually not until the next day.
"If that's going on right then, and it doesn't feel right, just call for an officer," Davis said.
And they don't want to file a report
“We have to have somebody who's willing to be a victim on that and they have to show up in court,” said Davis.
Ultimately, most aggressive panhandlers just need help.
"All of these different organizations are trying to work these people into programs to help get them away from aggressive panhandling and get them off of the streets," said Shoaf.
Police say most aggressive panhandlers have mental health issues or are addicted to drugs.
Officers say they, at times, even get physical with police, EMS, or people trying to help them.