FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Panhandlers are a common site across America's largest cities. Fort Wayne has become no exception, as the amount of panhandlers outside shopping centers and on busy intersections has increased over the past couple years.
Fort Wayne city code currently states that no one can solicit donations from any public street, sidewalk, park strip, or median. But that doesn't mean panhandlers are necessarily in the wrong. It's a little more complicated.
Many times, the person holding the sign is standing on private property. That's legal, if they have permission to be asking for money on the property.
The tricky part comes when police get a complaint. Officers in Fort Wayne said they have to track down the property manager to see if the panhandler has permission. By the time they do that, many times the panhandler is gone.
Raquel Foster, public information officer with the Fort Wayne Police Department, said complaints against panhandlers have been piling up.
"Based on the complaints that we receive and the number of calls, it appears that it's bothersome to some of the citizens of Fort Wayne," Foster said. "A lot of times, we really cannot do much about it and that's why you will see it occurring over and over and over again in a same spot, even though you yourself may have called."
Foster continued, "If this activity is bothersome or troubling then yes, we should have the proper tools to enforce it so that the activity doesn't occur."
15 Finds Out spoke with a couple property managers for shopping centers frequently targeted by panhandlers. Each said it's a topic no one has ever brought up to them.
The property managers had different opinions about panhandlers on their property. One said if she saw the person holding a cardboard sign, she would kick that panhandler off the property. The other didn't think it was a big issue.
Fort Wayne's panhandling ordinance didn't always used to be this way. The city's old begging ordinance made it illegal to beg anywhere unless the person had a permit.
From 2008 to 2010, there was only one soliciting citation issued for this type of action.
But in 2010, Fort Wayne City Council deemed its begging ordinance as unconstitutional, calling it a violation of the First Amendment. By a seven to one vote, it was gone. That's a possible reason to the increase in panhandlers the past couple years.
Since the vote, Fort Wayne police issued 11 soliciting citations in 2011 and 21 citations in 2012, a six year high.
When asked about the rise in panhandlers, Fort Wayne City Council President Tom Didier said he's open to looking at different panhandling restrictions. But Didier doesn't think panhandling is a big enough problem in Fort Wayne to change the current code.
"I don't know if there's a law or an ordinance that you can bring forth to try to control something of that nature," Didier said.
Ultimately, Didier thinks solving this problem shouldn't come down to government action, but a community who's willing to help.
"There's always going to be poor and there's always going to be people who are not going to have what they need," Didier said. "If we can help them along the way with some small token then so be it, but I think that's what we should do as a society."
Didier continued, "Until people stop handing money to these panhandlers and giving them something other than that, then it'll just continue."
Other cities around Fort Wayne have different panhandling ordinances. Dayton, Ohio requires panhandlers to hold a permit handed out by the chief of police.
Officials have been attributing the rise in violent crime to gangs, guns, and drugs. There's about a dozen known gangs. Many members teenagers.
A family was reunited with Charlie, an American Bulldog puppy, after they say he was stolen out of their house.
Recordings released of 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting show dispatchers urged panicked callers to take cover and asked about the welfare of the children as the boom of gunfire could be heard at times.
Tuesday's shooting has been ruled a homicide, bringing the count for 2013 to 44, matching the all-time high set in 1997.
Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz says an internal document obtained by her office shows Republican Gov. Mike Pence's new education agency is trying to strip her of power.
School districts across the state are set to receive $14 million under a settlement finalized Tuesday between the state's largest teachers union and the secretary of state's office.
State officials are seeking a federal major disaster declaration for central Indiana's Howard County because of damage during last month's wave of tornadoes and severe storms.
The gas price roller coaster shows no signs of stopping as the cost for a gallon of regular unleaded dipped to $2.97 at some Fort Wayne stations on Wednesday.
Four workers at a University of Notre Dame campus bar will soon be sharing a $10,000 tip.
The Indiana Department of Transportation opened the intersection of Union Chapel Road and Auburn Road at around noon on Wednesday.
Tuesday night, Fort Wayne City Council members voted on the initial approval to use Legacy Funds for the Embassy Theatre renovations.
A local couple received a special honor Tuesday night. Rose and Denny Beuchel are the recipients of the 2013 Neighbor of the Year award.
IPFW hosted a cupcake eating contest Tuesday as part of the university's week-long Homecoming celebration.
Eastside High School was locked down Tuesday after police discovered a man on school property with two loaded guns
A Kosciusko County teen charged with murder and ordered to spend 25 years behind bars is getting a new shot at freedom. All because of a new law passed by Indiana lawmakers earlier this year.