Some longtime residents and business owners around campus are accustomed to being approached by various people asking for spare change. Most of the time they’re harmless, but some people have raised concerns recently about panhandlers’ presence on campus.
Kerry Kramp Jr., franchisee of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, said he has recently noticed there have been more aggressive panhandlers around his restaurant. He said he was primarily concerned with the safety of his customers and of the students around the area.
“A message we try to spread to students and others is not to give money to panhandlers,” University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said, because doing so keeps them coming back to the area. “We encourage people to give to charities and social service organizations who can help these individuals out rather than give them money in the street.”
Asa Pearson, manager of The Harvard Market, said she has been dealing with the issue since she began working there about 15 years ago. She said she has seen aggressive panhandlers become physical with people on the street, but she could only recall one occasion where the situation turned violent. She said that from what she has seen, the panhandlers are usually not the instigators of the fights.
Pearson said she usually ends up asking the panhandlers operating in front of her store to leave. She said they know to keep their distance most of the time.
“I think the panhandlers know that they’re not welcome in many of the businesses, so they stay away,” Jim Rosvold, managing partner of Campus Pizza, said. “But by law, there’s not much we can do.
Rosvold said he doesn’t think there is much the police can do either, given how the courts treat the issue. When the courts see a panhandling case come through, it’s usually dropped, he said.
“I think UMPD and Minneapolis PD are doing whatever they can. Their hands are kind of tied,” Rosvold said.
Miner said the courts have set a precedent that people have the right to ask for money, making enforcement difficult.
“Also what we notice is that a lot of these folks that we deal with around the University have substance abuse problems,” he said. “So they’re not getting money to purchase their next meal, they’re getting money to go to a liquor store to purchase alcohol, for example.”
Rosvold said he sees the issue as more of an annoyance than a serious problem. “The couple of particular panhandlers that we’re familiar with – we call them the regulars – they’re pretty harmless,” he said.
An effective tool for business owners is the use of a trespass list, Miner said. He said if business owners are frequently bothered by panhandlers, warning them that they’re on a list goes a long way toward pushing them out of the area.