Police addressing concerns over panhandling in Conway

Police address panhandling concerns in Conway

CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - It's been a concern for some people in Little Rock, but now a rise in panhandling has made its way to the streets of Conway.

On Sunday, the Conway Police Department took to Facebook to address concerns from the community citing a recent court ruling which they say voided a city ordinance which prohibited panhandling.

Now, several residents say it’s slowly becoming a normalcy for the growing town. One citizen even claimed he witnessed a couple get out of an RV truck, change their clothes, and hit the streets with signs in hand.

"We have been receiving multiple messages, probably two to three a day”, said Lieutenant Clay Smith with the CPD.

Smith wrote the post that’s now received over 250 shares and over 100 comments.

"I think everyone around the state is dealing with a fallout from this court decision,” said Jamie Gates with the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce.

The American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged a loitering law that prohibited people from asking for money or charity saying the law violated the First Amendment.

Conway Police Department stated in the Facebook that, “Unless there is another crime taking place such as trespassing on private property, obstructing traffic, disorderly conduct, we have no legal right [or] authority to stop them from doing it.”

But, some citizens in Conway still want to know what’s being done to combat the growing issue and concern.

"Instead of answering them all one at a time I thought it would be better to put it out there for everybody and brief them on the situation,” said Smith, who isn’t exactly surprised at the community’s response. "We ceased enforcing the ordinance until they figure out if there are other legal means.”

Police say most action takes place at busy intersections, typically near the exit of interstate highways.

"If they're on private property and the owner doesn't want them there we can ask them to leave," said Smith.

Currently, those who ask for money are not violating any laws.

"It's no different that somebody advertising a car wash or church fundraiser,” Smith said.

Smith encourages residents to give funds directly to community resource organizations if they want to give back, as you never know where the money goes once it leaves your vehicle.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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