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Philadelphia Councilman Calls For Crackdown On Aggressive Panhandlers

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A long-simmering battle over homelessness and panhandling in Center City — and its effects on tourism — is about to erupt in City Council. One lawmaker wants police to have greater power to move the homeless and those begging for change.

Councilman Frank DiCicco says along Market Street and Arch Street, and in the historic district, aggressive panhandling is getting worse.

“If you go around some of our hotels in Center City, go around the Reading Terminal, you would see first-hand what it is I’m talking about,” he said. “There are people literally standing outside of hotel entrances that are very, very aggressive in their behavior. And this is not an appropriate way for people to be treated. And we’re in the tourism industry in this city, and I think we need to handle it a lot better than we have.”

So DiCicco has introduced a plan to revise the city’s 12-year old sidewalk behavior law, to the powers of police in handling such issues.

“What we want to do is give the people a little bit more authority to make decisions, as to people who are aggressively panhandling or homeless. Police will have the ability to decide if that person has a substance abuse (issue), if that person just is an aggressive person, and be able to take action and get that person off the street as quickly as possible.”

Under the bill, police would no longer be required to wait for outreach workers to arrive before moving a homeless from a location.

But the city’s leading homeless advocate, Sister Mary Scullion of Project Home, calls the proposal a giant step backwards.

“Having the police directly interact with people who are homeless is a recipe for disaster,” she said. “This bill could escalate into much more serious consequences for people who are homeless.”

Scullion vows to fight to see DiCicco’s plan defeated. She insists the existing regulations are working fine.

“The current law has served the city well for many years, and it’s really recognized as the national model.”

Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW Newsradio

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  • Rob

    In Center City all the time . the homeless are in your face and follow you for blocks, even into Suburban Station they follow you, one almost got on the train with me!. Sr. get a grip of some of the Catholic Church’s money and use it to get these people off the streets, rehabbed and even a job. What a novel idea? They are good at harassing people, fighting, screaming and generally being hostile. This skill should easily get them a job as a paid city employee.

  • Justin Case

    Homeless dogs and cats get picked up. We try to find a home for them. Homeless people…have the right to live like this? They are anti-social. Sister has a good heart, but we don’t have to coexist with these people. They have to integrate with us.

    • sheriff

      Dogs & Cats don’t shoot or strangle you when you take them home.

  • Notorious POB

    Again, how is it OK that clipboard-wielding paid social activists are allowed to lunge at me face on while I’m walking down the sidewalk, verbally berate me when I refuse to talk to them, and even bounce back and forth in front of me with their clipboard spread to the side an attempt to block the sidewalk? I am a RESIDENT and this is highly annoying and something I have been forced to encounter daily for years now. As usual, though, the city focuses on anything to help the TOURIST experience, while at the same time unfairly (illegally?) singling out panhandlers when they are far from the most annoying people begging on the sidewalks in Center City these days.

  • Mike Mcmahon

    I am sick and tired of catering to the section 8 bums, the welfare BUMS and the social service BUMS

  • Mike Mcmahon

    Scullion you are so wrong, PHILADELPHIA MANUFACTURERS NOTHING. scores of people depend on tourism for their livelihood, a BUM panhandling money is a problem. I hate when a BUM opens the door for me at a WAWA and expects change. A homeless guy raped a poor woman at the coffee shop on Bainbridge, the BUM loafed around on South street, lets put the homeless in the covents or the priest house maybe you can keep them company, scullion of calcutta ha!

  • Doodler

    I’ve worked in center city for over 5 years and not a day goes by that I don’t get asked for spare change. It’s usually the same few that are out day after day. I understand that many are mentally ill and need help, but some are really scary. Something needs to be done. And I beg to differ (pun intended) with the Sister, the current system is not working. I think the police should have the right to move them. I’ve seen some that are half naked, I’ve had to smell some of them if they get too close, and it’s disgusting. There needs to be a safe place for them to be moved to….they need to be institutionalized.

  • Moewolf

    I grew up in a time, if you were able bodied and didn”t work or look for employment you were a BUM. If you weren’t interested in school you were a DUMMY and if you somehow “got cought up” in the criminal justice system you were a JAILBIRD or JITTERBUG. As a lifelong Phildelphian I’m appalled downtown looks like old pictures of Calcutta with all the disgusting beggars. I guess nobody notices that CITY HALL property becomes a bastion for BUMS and DRUGGIES when the sun goes down. We need to take a hard stance.

  • Sister Mary Martini

    Go back to doing what the Philly cops used to do…round them up in the vans, and drop them off in Camden, NE Philly, and other areas….just like the old days when the Convention Center needed approval.

    • TG

      One way bus ticket or a direct firehose spray on the sidewalk

  • Gary Knights

    No sympathy for any ineffective taxpayer backed homeless programs. Let the cops roll them off the streets, and put a gag on our beloved Sister Whoever.

    Dirty little secret is – you move the homeless out enough, they leave. Path of least resistance for those vagrants – they eventually get the message and seek easier pickings.

    how do you think Giulliani got them outta NYC? He had NYs finest roll them off the streets. May not seem like a priority, w drugs, rape,m murder etc – but I think you’d be damned surprised with the positive cascade effect…

    Whatever – I’m a Main Line brat anyways – love going downtown, but there aren’t many homeless near Wayne. Go go DiCicco!

    • Gary Knights

      Oh and yes – I have indeed been homeless, unemployed, and have absolutely positively done drugs in my time.

      Solution? The will to change – you either got it, or ya don’t.

      I’m guessing these perennial victims don’t have it, so they gots to go!

      Keep tossing ’em change, perpetuate the cycle.
      Good luck

    • Gary Knights

      +1 to janet, that is funny

  • Paul

    Streets gotta eat.

  • Snowman

    To Linda G. There is NO reason to call Sister an “idiot”. I work in a nonprofit/social services organization. Sister works with homeless people all day! Can you say the same? I also work in center city and from time to time get asked for change and if I don’t have any loose change I politely tell them “I can’t help you today”. There is no need to get confrontational with the homeless.

    • Mike Mcmahon

      sure all the people who work in social services LOVE THE BUMS

    • Linda G.

      She IS an idiot AND stupid. I have no sympathy for the homeless. They need to work like the rest of us. Taxpayer money should NOT go to them. And when I see people give them change I cringe. Giving them money only encourages them to remain on the street and keep begging and annoying us.

  • Anthony

    broad and arch is a disgrace,clean it up.mentally ill and bums talking to themselves and bums begging,let sister mary use the catholic church’s money to house them.enough is enough. DiCicco is finally doing something to EARN his drop windfall.

  • Linda G.

    Smartee Pants, Chazz and Guess Who – Right on!

  • chazz

    Just swerve at them, they’ll move.

  • Guess Who

    The solution is to eat the poor, not feed them.

  • Smartee Pants

    You need to stop that one guy who sits at the base of 676, just as you cross into PA over the Ben Franklin Bridge. This guy stands there 10 hours a day, every day! He should’ve been stopped a long time ago! He’s a worthless bum! These people can get jobs, but they are incentivized by gullable passers-by who want to do the right thing and donate their money to support their lives. I support this crackdown 100%! Way to go, DiCicco!

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