Aggressive Downtown Tulsa Panhandler Gives Group A Bad Name

Friday, February 21st 2014, 11:08 pm
By: News On 6

Downtown Tulsa businesses are warning people about an aggressive panhandler. A safety bulletin sent out by PSO said a man begging for money assaulted a woman on her lunch break downtown.

Panhandlers downtown said that man has a bad reputation in their community.

It's not unusual for cities to have problems with panhandlers, but police say it is unusual for one of them to assault someone.

Panhandlers we talked to in downtown Tulsa said they ask for money the right way, and most people don't get aggressive.

Some homeless panhandlers said they just ask for a dollar without threats.

But one woman is warning downtown patrons to beware, she said a panhandler with a pitbull yanked her hair and pulled her to the ground on 5th and Main.

One group of panhandlers said that's the wrong way. They said they ask if someone can spare a dollar. And while they may ask more than once, they never get in someone's face.

Officer Shawn Kite said panhandling becomes aggressive in the eyes of the law when a panhandler asks more than once.

"It's when a person starts repeatedly asking, or following a person, then it becomes a crime," Kite said.

But for two years, Kite's been patrolling downtown streets and said panhandlers are not a problem.

"I have never taken a report of aggressive panhandler downtown. Most of the assaults happen between people that know each other, not a random person, or homeless person, asking for money," Kite said.

The group of panhandlers said person the bulletin is warning about is notorious, and has been arrested for aggressive panhandling.

Now, those who walk the streets daily are on the lookout.

"It doesn't sound familiar to me, but I guess it's a little troubling to hear about that, yeah," said downtown worker Jamie Ostroe.

Tulsa police said they have more officers patrolling downtown than any area in Tulsa. Police are aware of the incident but the victim hasn't filed a report.