Portsmouth Panhandling Crisis: Citizens Under Assault
Portsmouth, Ohio has a panhandling crisis. Citizens have complained loudly about the issue for some time. Scioto County Daily News was able to capture images of several of these individuals in the act.
These panhandlers are far from passive homeless folk holding “will work for food” signs or hollow-eyed souls asking for gas money that even the most trusting person knows will go straight into their veins.
These panhandlers are aggressive and angry, unwilling to take a no for an answer. These panhandlers refuse to be ignored. They yell and threaten. They block people’s way.
The stretch of Gallia Street between Mabert and Young Street is a favorite hunting ground. Visitors to Big Lots, Save A Lot, Aldi, Speedway, and several fast food joints can expect to be confronted for money.
As you can see from the top picture, some work in “packs”. When one person gets banned from a location, they rotate in a new player. In any other town, this would be the setup for a typical street-level drug dealing operation. In Portsmouth, this is organized terroristic panhandling.
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In fact, Portsmouth Police went so far as to issue a public warning to shoppers at Aldi Foods about the threat posed by aggressive panhandlers.
According to an official release from the department Portsmouth Police have received complaints from several women of homeless panhandlers acting aggressively towards shoppers at Aldi’s. They seem to be targeting older ladies.
PPD advised women to back away and immediately call 911 or activate the panic button on their key fob if they have one.
There have already been physical attacks at businesses in the area including a sexual assault. Repeat sex offender Jimmy Lee Barnett forced the woman into her vehicle and punched her numerous times in the head and face area. The victim was able to fight back and the Barnett fled towards Speedway wearing only one shoe.
According to a post by PPD, “We do not want this to happen to anyone else. If you are there and see someone being harassed by these men, please call and observe what is going on and relay it to the dispatcher. Please watch out for each other.”
There have also been two separate incidents in the past week in the vicinity of Tracy Park where women reported being approached with vulgar sexual suggestions from apparently homeless men as well as a report of a man who exposed himself and urinated in front of a group of playing children.
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A look at the Portsmouth Police Department’s Daily reports shows officers respond over and over and over again to threats of aggressive homeless and addicts harassing shoppers and store employees. In almost all cases, it is the same individuals frequenting the same places over and over and over again.
There are also several individuals with a history of mental illness and substance abuse issues who run into traffic, scream, strip naked, and otherwise terrorize folks attempting to go about their daily business.
When the jail is accepting prisoners, police occasionally take these folks into custody. Some of them have been arrested 20, 30, 40, 50, or even 60 times. However, since most of their crimes are not considered violent, the court invariably releases the individuals, sometimes the same day they are arrested.
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Quality of Life
Several women SCDN spoke to said they are afraid to go shopping and won’t do it unaccompanied. One gentleman said he no longer allows his mother to go to the store without an escort as he’s afraid one of these panhandlers could easily knock his cane-using mother over.
Other people worry that these individuals prowling the streets will frighten away potential new residents and businesses.
A few folks have complained that PPD is ignoring the problem. But if you take a look at the police logs, the exact opposite is true. Officers spend a huge chunk of their time attending to reports of aggressive panhandlers.
Police officers frequently attempt to find assistance for these individuals. Their day-long efforts are often detailed in the police logs. However, it’s not possible to force individuals to accept mental health or addiction treatment, or to stay at homeless shelters.
Have you had issues with aggressive panhandlers or agitated homeless individuals? What do you think should be done to solve the problem? Click here to let us know what you think.
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