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Posted on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 6:20 a.m.

Ann Arbor officials reconvene task force to look at problem of aggressive panhandling downtown

By Ryan J. Stanton

Police Chief Barnett Jones confirmed Monday night what some already suspect: Panhandling is a growing problem in downtown Ann Arbor.

"This was a summer where the No. 1 crime that occurred in our community was aggressive panhandling," Jones said, addressing the Ann Arbor City Council.

"We have been experiencing that because of the culture and the nature of our fine community," he said. "We have had daily numbers of people from around our area that have made it into our downtown area because we have the wherewithal to share some of the resources that we have.


Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, brought forward a resolution Monday night to reconvene a task force to look at the problem of aggressive panhandling in the downtown.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"They've come as far away as Jackson, they've come from Detroit, they've come from other communities — because that is the nature of our community. We like to take care of the people we can try to take care of. We've even had people pretending to be down-and-out in our downtown area, taking advantage of the goodness of the people in our community."

Jones' report came as the City Council voted unanimously Monday night to reconvene a task force to look at aggressive panhandling and other issues facing the downtown.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward and a sponsor of the resolution, noted it was exactly nine years ago to the day that the city first established the Downtown Street Outreach Task Force to address the larger issue of unmet outreach and service needs downtown.

In May 2003, the task force recommended neighborhood patrols in the downtown business districts, encouraged increased outreach by social service agencies and proposed a panhandling ordinance that the City Council subsequently adopted. The ordinance doesn't outlaw panhandling, but includes specific regulations to prohibit aggressive panhandling.

Despite that ordinance, Briere said aggressive panhandling appears to have increased in the downtown area since 2003, and the task force needs to be reinvigorated.

The Downtown Street Outreach Task Force is expected to meet regularly for no longer than six months to identify issues surrounding panhandling and "suggest potential solutions that may involve the community, the service sectors and safety services."

The resolution also directs the Ann Arbor Police Department to continue efforts to enforce the existing panhandling ordinance as written.

Briere acknowledged some residents have expressed a desire to restore downtown beat cop positions that were cut last summer, but the city's budget is tight these days.

Until last summer, a handful of police officers were assigned to walk or bicycle downtown, but as part of a restructuring of the Ann Arbor Police Department, those patrols were eliminated. Some say panhandlers have become more aggressive since the city pulled beat cops off the street.

Jones acknowledged the police department has struggled with a minimum number of officers on foot and bike patrols to curb aggressive panhandling. He said the department has been sporadically moving officers between Liberty Plaza and other parts of the downtown.

"When we were no longer there, they were there," Jones lamented.

Jones mentioned the annual Punk Week festivities this summer, which resulted in the arrest of multiple people who converged on Ann Arbor for a week of illegal behavior in August.

"They took advantage of the goodness of our community and the downtown area," Jones said. "At night, they were there with signs saying, 'You don't like us, we don't like you. Give us money and we'll go away.' That is how brass and how bold they were this particular time."

Jones said there is a crop of "new intruders" from outside of Ann Arbor who "sometimes don't know our laws" and "they are used to the other way they panhandle in other areas."

He suggested Ann Arbor has a reputation of being fertile ground for panhandlers. He acknowledged that years ago, when he worked as a police officer in another community far outside Ann Arbor, it actually was standard practice to shuttle people in need to Ann Arbor and drop them off here.

"We did the shuttle service because we knew in our community we had no homeless shelter, we knew that in our community we had no goodness of people," he said. "So we would shuttle them to Ann Arbor so that they'd know that they might get taken care of. That may not take place today, but the people still come here because of the goodness of the people in this community."

Mayor John Hieftje cautioned Monday night the city needs to make sure it is reacting to actual problems and not perceptions about what's happening downtown. He said he's been told that it's primarily a couple of individuals causing problems on Main Street.

"Panhandling is not illegal, and in fact it's a protected right," Hieftje said, though he added it can be regulated and it's worth taking another look at the issue.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sun, Jan 2, 2011 : 10:32 a.m.

My concern with the panhandling issue is that while a task force is being convened to study the issue and to make recommendations as to how city officials may address the "problem", there is the possibility for many of these individuals to be picked up by the police and placed in jail further adding to the burden on taxpayers to foot the bill for their care in addition to saddling them with a police record that may further exacerbate their ability to find employment. While it is great that we have a network of social service agencies to provide support for people in need, often times these agencies do not address the root cause of the problem and that is one reason why people resort to panhandling. I recall reading a piece sometime ago where our current police chief admitted that in his former town, they actually encouraged individuals to come to Ann Arbor because of the alleged network of social service orqanizations and now his agency is confronted with possibly arresting these individuals who may come here for the very purpose of getting services. I hope the task force is sensitive to the impact of the criminalization of panhandlers.

Lucy Hershey

Sat, Oct 23, 2010 : 3:05 p.m.


peg dash fab

Tue, Oct 5, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

jennifer, you should have called 911


Tue, Sep 28, 2010 : 10 a.m.

If you refuse to believe that there is aggressive panhandling taking place downtown then I recommend that you try living in the area for a few months. Up until this past July I lived smack in the middle of it, on State St. above Bivouac. I can tell you from experience that (while a lot of the people asking for money are indeed respectful and not in any way a nuisance, and yes the larger issues of homelessness need to be addressed in a constructive manner) there are a cadre of about a dozen individuals who are there every day, year in year out... they have the same schtick, the same story and a good number of them are very VERY aggressive. At times a few of them will line the sidewalk creating a veritable gauntlet of panhandling AND catcalls (if, like me, you are a woman)... I had to walk through this every day in order to get to work- GREAT WAY TO START THE DAY. Another tactic is to position one member on each corner of the North U/State St intersection and if you turn one down he will call out to the next guy you are in line to pass and let him know to give you a hard time. It got to the point where I would not leave my apartment after dark because one time, when I was standing outside around 7pm waiting for friends to pick me up, some street kid proceeded to demonstrate a sleight of hand trick to me and although this demonstration was completely unasked for then demanded that I pay him for it. When I tried to shrug him off, one of the regular State St. aggressors came up and proceeded to harass me and call me some pretty vile names. My solution of course was to go back inside and wait for my ride upstairs... turns out that was a bad idea, because from that day forth that one guy knew where I lived and made sure to give me an extra hard time EVERY DAY. I won't say that panhandling was the sole reason I moved but it was definitely one of the major factors. Thanks to those experiences (and having diag rats break into our apartment and steal my roommate's laptop) I felt completely unsafe in the are and made for the West Side as soon as an opportunity presented itself. So again, if you don't believe me I say take up residence there for a while... hell, the Co-op I lived in has a guest space, I'm sure they'd let you crash there for a couple hundred a month. Then you too can enjoy the ambiance of the downtown area. Oh yeah, and sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll get to wake up and find that someone has shit on the back stairs during the night. STAY CLASSY ANN ARBOR.


Mon, Sep 27, 2010 : 12:34 p.m.

I wish you guys who have not experienced aggressive panhandlers would not criticize people who write they have. We are all different and react differently, and some people may be more easily intimidated or selected as they look like they are easily intimidated. For those who have been approached aggressively, have you called the police? I suggest that if this occurs, you take a good look at the aggressor and relay the description and location to A2PD. Let's start by identifying the most aggressive and start there. A short chat with one of A2PD's finest may change the tune of a particular panhandler, and subsequent action can be taken if the same individual is reported repeatedly. I do not see this idea in this story. Why not? Why didn't any of these officials say anything about calling the police if this happens? Maybe it's in there and I missed it. Maybe Rich Kinsey will comment on it. There, that did not take 6 months to think of and I am not a task force. If it takes longer than 2 weeks to come up with a solution, we need a new task force. Hi Ed! Do you recall a couple of months back I posted how police around Michigan ship the homeless to A2 and you asked me for sources? Dang, I did not know the A2PD chief was one of them! That gives us a pretty good indication of how common it is.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

Out of towners? Are you sure? This story had an obnoxious smell to it. I went for a bike ride down Washtenaw a few months ago. I counted atleast four homeless people nest (cardboard, matress). Really? I can only assume the a2 council is estimating the percentage of out of towner panhandlers. Evidently, it has to be a guess, since nothing is being done about it. They may sleep in the parks in Ypsi, but I don't think they would qualify as "out of towners." It seems to me, that it sounds a lot better for the council to talk about "out of towner panhandling," as oppose to saying,"We have a homeless problem!"


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 5:22 p.m.

Ghost Let's put my conjecture to the test, shall we? Does anyone know of, seen, heard of, or otherwise even have anecdotal evidence of a council member volunteering at the shelter, or at St Andrews? This wouldn't be an issue at all if it weren't for the fact that council members try to come across as feeling, understanding, compassionate. Time and again they make silly recommendations or resolutions that are easy pats on the back. But do you actually see them in the trenches? Have them in the shelter overnight for a few nights, or ladling out soup for a few weeks, and I'm sure you will see a very different attitude. Gone will be the decisions based on emotion (couch ban). Gone will be ridiculous resolutions on matters they have zero control over (Arizona law). These people are just not grounded at all, and have demonstrated that over and over again. What would I suggest we do to address the problem of homeless, or panhandlers? Simple. Volunteer yourself. Give money, too, if you like. But volunteer first and foremost. Give of your time. It's easy to volunteer for a walk-a-thon, or to give a few bucks here or there. But to show up and help out week after week, year after year, that takes real committment.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

I wonder what the attitude is of the AAPD toward panhandlers? Do they despise and exhibit aggresion toward them as the do our city's beloved Punk Week participants? Or are panhandlers politically correct among law enforcement? Let's have City Council pass a resolution honoring these panhandlers with their own week as they do with every other person or group. Then they can hand out a Golden Pandy Award to themselves. But that is only if they do not realize that panhandlers have no addresses and cannot register to vote. Further, that they will not recycle monetary donations into the coffers of a campaign commitee of any City Council member. Or that no panhandler is interested in an appointment to a city board or commission or develops property. Once City Council realizes that panhandlers have zero political or economic clout to offer City Council members any sort of "quid pro quo", panhandlers will be ignored completely. The only sort of government attention that will be lavished upon them will be a police billy club upside their respective noggins while a congratulatory wink be given to the Ann Arbor's finest for "encouraging" panhandlers to vacate to another city and cease disturbing the elitist sensibilities of Ann Arbor's upstanding citizenry. So much for the supposed "progressive" and "socially compassionate" nature of Tree Town's City Council members. Or in another era in another land, it would succincly be put: "Let them eat cake!"


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

Jennifer said: "I really don't understand the hysteria. I have lived in Ann Arbor for many years, and I have not been threatened by a person asking for spare change. I simply say "no" or "I'm sorry." Usually the response is "god bless" or something similar. I have been more offended by the actions of drunken frat boys and idiotic football fans who descend on our town. Plainly stated, JUST SAY NO!" EXACTLY! Anyone who is scared of panhandlers in Ann Arbor must have grown up in a small town and never visited an actual city. Visit San Fransisco is you want to check out real homelessness. Some of the comments on this article are truly ridiculous. I personally don't want one tiny BIT of police effort spent on needlessly harassing panhandlers. Most of them just want to get enough change to buy a sandwich. Funny that this articles states how police beats downtown have been eliminated this summer - yet I have repeatedly seen police on main street pushing away anyone trying to panhandle. Even nice kids with signs just sitting pleasantly were forced to get up and walk away. Why? Where are they going to go?


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 11:49 a.m.

Here is another idea. Take pictures of each panhandler and start a web site with their picture, name, known tactics, scam lines, bio, known living address. Let's all contribute and identify how much money each of them is getting. Lots of questions about how well off these guys are, where do they live, are they aggressive or not. Here is one way to tackle the mystery around this.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 11:45 a.m.

As long as there is an incentive to come to Ann Arbor (i.e. they can make money), panhandlers will come. So here is my solution to the problem. Set the fine for panhandling to $200 for each panhandling offence. Establish a crime stoppers reward system so that each citizen that turns in a panhandler gets $100 every time (an incentive). Make sure the college students know about this. It could be good money. Most surely, the panhandler problem in Ann Arbor will be quickly resolved when it does not pay anymore.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.

I really don't understand the hysteria. I have lived in Ann Arbor for many years, and I have not been threatenrd by a person asking for spare change. I simply say "no" or "I'm sorry." Usually the response is "god bless" or something similar. I have been more offended by the actions of drunken frat boys and idiotic football fans who descend on our town. Plainly stated, JUST SAY NO!


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 9:41 a.m.

Ghost Yes, it is a broad brush indeed. But, contrary to your assertion that if I "think" this, I'll feel better, this is based many, many years of experience. And, I don't know where you get the notion of 'downtrodden'. The people who consistently volunteer, who show up year after year, are truly the salt of the earth. What is your 'experience'? Do you volunteer at the Delonis Center too? Maybe our paths have crossed without knowing. Have you spent the night on a mattress on the floor at St Andrews? Do you know the people there too? Have you volunteered at Hope Clinic in Ypsi? Salt of ther earth there, too. How about Jail Ministry at the Hogback Hilton? Perhaps we've met there sometime in the past. I know I'm not supposed to grind away like this, but it is grating to see people like council members give lip service to the unfortunate, and do nothing themselves. Ghost, I call 'em like I see 'em. I know the vast majority of volunteers wouldn't give a fiddlers fart for any recognition. That's not the point. The point is that, in my experience, a few elitists have created a situation here in Ann Arbor where the unfortunate are welcomed, they do little themselves to help, and the same few do the heavy lifting. Again, if I'm wrong, and there is someone I've unfairly lambasted, I apologize. See you at the Center!


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

Chief Jones statement about outside communities "shuttling" the homeless to Ann Arbor did in fact occur during the mid 80's. What would happen in many cases is that homeless people would be put on a Greyhound bus and dropped off in Ann Arbor. Some of it was done as a "Joke" by other communities, but we did not find the humor with this practice. This issue needs to be addressed without forgetting that we are in fact dealing with human beings, while at the same time preserving our Downtown commerce and the perception (and fact) that it is a safe area.

Raggety Andy

Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 12:58 a.m.

panhandling is actually a somewhat lucrative way of making a living. Although i find it as annoying as anyone else, for some it's a better alternative to the low wages of unskilled work. after all "doing anything for a buck" seems to be part and parcel with the faux american dream. What's more, income from asking for spare change isn't easily taxable. a perfect job for those who adhere to the platitudes of the tea party.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 12:42 a.m.

Perhaps Mr. Jones could now return his clients to their home communities?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:18 p.m.

"Mayor John Hieftje cautioned Monday night the city needs to make sure it is reacting to actual problems and not perceptions." Precisely why he got my vote yet again...a voice of reason! Anyone who thinks that Ann Arbor has a panhandling problem needs to get out of Ann Arbor more often.

Hot Sam

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:49 p.m.

We get what we tolerate...


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:13 p.m.

I don't mind panhandlers, I do mind aggressive people who target me and try to scare me into giving them money. In the past, there were panhandlers on the streets and I didn't mind that they were there. I do mind the aggressive people who also happen to panhandle. There's that large group of young people with dogs who seem to have some sort of an entitlement mentality, they are panhandlers, too. Organized panhandlers in a way I've never seen before. Then there are the two or more guys in cars who seem to target women. I have a male friend who never gets targeted. I frequently do. A lot of this aggressive panhandling is premeditated. Some people just get off on bullying and this is a way for them to make money, just like the schoolyard bully who shakes down the other kids for their lunch money. The mayor can be a pretty wishy-washy guy about certain things. One of them appears to be this issue. "Let's just pretend there isn't a problem. Maybe it will go away." appears to be the motto of politicians at all levels. It's a wrong-headed kind of positive thinking. Not only should he eat lunch on Liberty plaza, but perhaps he should send female relatives, or elderly relatives, or disabled relatives (alone) to do so. Perhaps he should send them there after dark, just walking some of those areas alone. Perhaps they could ride the buses after dark. All without a police presence, of course. Yes, there is a problem with people becoming homeless. Let us be very clear on that: That is a separate problem from aggressive panhandling. We do need to address the problem of homelessness, not only in Ann Arbor, but elsewhere, too. The criminal justice system needs to deal with aggressive persons in every case. Just like the schools are cracking down on bullying. If the panhandler is aggressive and suddenly appears out of nowhere when no one else is in sight (that's happened more than once to me) and makes me feel cornered, or if they block my way on the sidewalk or shout obscenities, it needs to be handled. That should be the primary job of the criminal justice system, police, laws, courts, jails. Going downtown alone, especially after dark, is something I no longer do. I used to do it frequently. It's just nonsense to say that this should not be dealt with. Not dealing with it just invites more of the same. It's not that Ann Arbor is a caring town, we have always been a caring town, but we didn't have this aggression before now. It's that we don't have those police downtown and it's been like putting an ad in the paper for aggressive criminals to arrive, ones who shake people down for money and appear to be taking ownership of the streets. Please, Mr. Mayor, hire some police to put back on the downtown beats, the ones who ride bikes, please. Don't take them from other assignments. If you have to cut some other programs, please do that. If you let the criminals take over the streets, then you have a much bigger problem, a more costly one, too.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:01 p.m.

PeoplE, there is an easy solution, ask them for money before they ask you. There is a look of bewilderment in their eyes. I learned this many moons ago and have employed the tactics in towns with far more agressive pan handlers. After that, tell them you are putting up a fence in your yard and if they show up at 8:00 on Saturday morning you will pay them ten dolars an hour under the table. If they ask for directions, I will gladly pay their days earnings.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:52 p.m.

When I was a kid all thse bums just made their money off of us miscreants pimping beer. I'll never forget having a case of Budweiser thrown at me outside the VC as the staff chased our guy down the street when he absconded wiht our Jackson and a few extra bills for his effort. Apparently, her failed to pay for said Budweiser before removing it from the store. He increased his profit margin by at least a whopping 500%.

Patrick Rady

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:16 p.m.

This strikes me a colossal pretext. Visible salivating at the prospect of eliminating programs which *harumph* exacerbate this sudden problem, which we have had for, oh, at least 35 years. I really haven't noticed any uptick in this suddenly serious problem since, oh, 1985. There are lots of reasons to bemoan cuts to the police force, but a sudden onslaught of panhandlers isn't one of them.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:38 p.m.

Visited Portland, Oregon this summer...Ann Arbor panhandlers are not that aggressive. Really.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.

Panhandling is protected under the Free Speech clauses of the federal and state constitutions. It has been tested in the courts. "Aggressive panhandling" can only be deemed an enforceable offense if the assault, disorderly conduct, stalking or similar criminal ordinances or statutes are themselves violated. Some of these panhandlers are offensive, rude, and unsavory individuals to be sure, but there should be ways to ensure that all actual needy members of our society can receive adequate food and shelter. There are needy in Detroit who purposely get arrested so that they have a place to eat and sleep in a local jail facility. Many sleep on top of steam grates in streets to receive warmth. Dozens stay in foul-smelling homeless shelters which reek of urine and scavenge trash bins in public places to find discarded food scraps. If Ann Arbor really wanted to live up to its progressive reputation as "Moscow on the Huron", it would seek a compassionate solution to this problem as the Bolsheviks did in the Soviet Union, eradicating homelessness by providing jobs and shelter to all. There is nothing that discredits America's capitalist system in the eyes of the world than how it treats its homeless population.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:11 p.m.

So when Jones was working in Wayne (or possibly Oakland -- but probably Wayne) County he was dumping homeless people here? His reasoning then and now is: "We like to take care of the people we can try to take care of." This is how a man with two college degrees speaks and reasons... It seems to me that he is in good part responsible for this problem; we probably wouldn't need beat cops otherwise. Did the Mayor and city council know this when they hired him? I suppose that wouldn't matter to them, but it probably does to a lot of residents. I remember as a student asking one of the homeless where he was from. "Detroit." I thought he took the bus; now it's clear how they got here. No wonder the homeless problem is ten times worse then when I was growing up. :(


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

If you actually take time to talk to some of these folks you will discover that there are almost as many different reasons to panhandle as panhandlers. Ann Arbor has chosen the path of assisting those who are on the fringe of the societal norm:poor, homeless, mentally different, suffering addictions, and/or university professors. In any group, be they homeless or Fortune 500 CEO's, most are just folks and a few are shady. The mistake is assuming that for any group outreach alone will work. It will with most. For the others you need regulation and enforcement. Beat cops are neccesary in Ann Arbor to maintain the balence. Ann Arbor without the ecclectic is Columbus. Go Blue!


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 6:10 p.m.

"... How many panhandlers from another city will it take before this city admits it isn't just an "Ann Arbor panhandling problem" but Ann Arbor is making it attractive for others to come here as well...." If other communities and units of government steadfastly refuse to respond constructively to a growing human crisis created by a fallen and corrupt national economy, then should the proper reaction in Ann Arbor really be to lower our already half-hearted standards to such an abysmal level? Should we seek to emulate the lowest common denominator found elsewhere? Is it sound policy to treat the less fortunate badly enough to drive them off? By sweeping away panhandlers and homeless, will that make it possible for upstanding citizens of sound mind to walk downtown streets in comfort once again — where they can speak their hearts freely on pivotal topics of the day, including outdoor couches, large painted rocks, and skateboarding? As a communal civil society, will we strive to achieve that high Platonic ideal?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 5:50 p.m.

Okay. 1. If mayor hiefjte says again that panhandling is a protected right, i will lose my dinner. Yes, mayor hiftje it's is. But, it is a right than can and NOW should be narrowly regulated within the limits of the city of Ann arbor. Who elected you? The panhandling jerks or the taxpayers who you expect to just go with your flow? Get a clue. 2. Where is the 2 million the city got from the dda on promise of maintaing beat cops downtown? Where is the money? 3. As for busing people in to the good city of Ann arbor - geez. Could it be an even brighter neon sign? Ann arbor is used by panhandling jerks and other regions as a toilette. Good hearted does not have to mean dumb. When will Ann arbor draw a firm line in the sand?

Hot Sam

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 5:17 p.m.

"""Moderator's note: A pair of comments between two individuals who should really work it out over a nice cup of coffee rather than slinging insults at each other was removed.""" Better make it Decaf Ed...


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 4:55 p.m.

@Leann: um, I went through those intersections (exits and on ramps) every day for 5 or so years. The people there are generally pros who have their CAR over at the Holiday Inn or Red Roof Parking lot. I remember one guy at the Washtenaw Off Ramp by Arborland that was legit and he loved it when I gave him a gift card now and again and was very thankful. Then he disappeared and the next guy was a pro with a nice car parked in the mall.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.

Whenever I get out of my Lamborghini, those pesky panhandlers won't leave me alone. It's even worse when they see me get out of my Silver Ghost. But, they tend to leave me alone when they see me exit my Hummer with the cammo paint.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

Never had a problem with a panhandler. I use the same lines all of the time "What do I look like, the Bank of America?" and "how will you earn this money?". Then you can explain the free market system to them and what work ethic means. Seriously, pass an ordinance to ban panhandling in all areas of Ann Arbor and get rid of this problem. Also troublesome is the panhandling at the exit ramps of the interstate. Do something about this too.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

Oh my gosh! I will not ride the AATA bus at night because sometimes you find them down by the Blake Center. And you must board some buses on the street it can get really bad. Some of the panhandlers you were talking about below do home homes too go to. But might have blown there Social Security checks that is why you find them real thick at the end of the month.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 4:36 p.m.

a2roots, The obvious point is that there are no facilities to treat and house the mentally ill. The mentally ill are throwaways, people that our society can't and won't deal with. There have been multiple articles here on the subject and multiple posts and this is what it comes down to every time....the state facilities were closed because they were snake pits. When that happened, government took the position of "mainstreaming" them into society; that is putting them in halfway houses where they could function and have some freedom. All sounds good until we face the fact that there are no watchdogs of these houses. But while we don't like the aggressive panhandling, we also need to remember that by some luck our kids were born with sound minds and so I really can't complain. But for the grace of God, there goes my child.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 3:11 p.m.

In reading through these comments I see several references to "Them", regarding the panhandling community in Ann Arbor. If you actually get to know the regulars who work your streets, you'll find it a far more pleasant experience. For example, "The guy with the Crutch", Arthur, is a really interesting guy to talk to. The "agressiveness" I would like to see end in Ann Arbor would be the suits who want to chase off the "rabble" on our streets.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 3:10 p.m.

@cash...I would say let your fingers do the walking. I specifically do not know where this particular person should go or what the problem is. If it is such a concern of yours open the phone book and make some calls. There are six Human Service Organizations listed in the yellow pages and probably another 100 or so out there. Housing Bureau for Seniors is always a good start. Bottom line is that not all people can be touched by outreach.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

@a2roots. There are a lot of services in this area. Many of the panhandlers you see are people who are getting services. A long time ago, as part of some volunteer work I was doing, I met with a young man to help him budget his money. He had enough money to pay his rent in subsidized housing and he had enough money to pay his utilities (no cable or internet or anything luxurious like that). He had food stamps which he could have made last the month except he didn't have the cooking skills to do that. He couldn't get a job because if he did, he would lose the health insurance that was providing him with the medication he needed to stay sane enough to keep out of jail. He used to panhandle because all of the available services just werent enough to meet his needs. I suspect that he would have rather had a job. The thing is. I agree with you. I don't like panhandling either. I hate it in fact. But the services we provide to that population are inadequate and it costs us. Either it costs us in aggravation as we walk down the street and have to see people who are so poor they have to beg for money to survive or it costs us in criminalizing that behavior. It might cost us a lot less if we could have better services and especially non-judgmental services. Can't we just agree that *everyone* (including lazy drug users) is entitled to certain things such a roof over their head and food in their bellies? I suspect that if people were confident that there were actually decent services for the homeless, they would be less inclined to give panhandlers money which would, in turn, mean fewer people panhandling.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 3:02 p.m.

From my earlier post about the office worker in Nickels Arcade that worked tirelessly on this issue, read:

Bob Needham

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 2:50 p.m.

(A comment was removed pending verification of a fact)


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 2:40 p.m.

Oh come on man, Ann Arbor is the Safest city ever, safer than anywhere else I have lived, I love it, and believe in tolerance and love for those who don't have as much as I do, hell I have even taken in homeless people in the past when I lived in a Ghetto Neighborhood in Port Huron and a homeless shelter closed (Known as South Park more commonly) Homeless people are not a problem but people just like you and me. Don't look down remember that could be you someday. Peace Love and progress for humanity.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 2:32 p.m.

Racerx: the city has not hired a new A2 Patrol Officer in over 13 years. They have also laid off many of the existing police officers, downsized and eliminated law enforcement jobs, and given "early retirement" packages to those that have dedicated their lives to servicing their community. A recession is no time to cut back on law enforcement.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 2:30 p.m.

Most of them will go away if you just ignore them...I've had a few *apparently* homeless men make gross/suggestive/rude comments when I've ignored them, but they didn't try to accost me in any way beyond being verbally vulgar.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

The #1 crime problem this summer? Really/ I mean, really. Is this all the crime that occurred this summer? B&E's? Assaults? But our police department deems it was panhandling? If it's such a problem, then why aren't there aggressive moves by the PD to put patrols in the area of the crimes? Sure, you can't be in all places at all times, but, if this was the #1 problem this summer then the small area of downtown with more patrols might have been used to combat this terrible, terrible crime being committed upon our citizenry! Who was that famous person married to an ex-president, what did she used to say...just say no!


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 2:19 p.m.

a2roots, Which one of those agencies exists to serve as a home for the mentally ill furnishing doctors and needed medication? Saw some lady walking this morning with blood on the back of her heels from the shoes she wore not fitting right...and she just kept walking. Some of these folks are turned out of halfway houses in the morning and aren't allowed back until night. So they walk. And they beg.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 2:18 p.m.

Wasn't there a program a few years back (after the original task force) where there were donation boxes in downtown and campus stores for area social service agencies? I seem to recall that there was even a recovered addict / former homeless guy who was assigned to inform people that the proper course of action was to donate directly to the social service agencies, not to give cash directly to the beggars. I do like the suggestion in one of the comments about giving restaurant gift cards. That's a good way to help the beggar directly without your cash going to buy drugs.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 1:58 p.m.

@WiY...Ann Arbor has plenty of Human Service agencies. I would bet that for a City of it's size Ann Arbor spends more tax dollars funding service agencies than most. A significant portion of Block Grant funds go to Human Service Agencies, money from the city's general fund, several foundations and the United Way.. If someone truly wants help it is available in Ann Arbor. As others have said, maybe that is why we see so many people in need. So, maybe they have come here to feed off our system but truly have no desire to get help.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

@a2roots. And yet, you can't avoid the problem. There *are* mentally ill people among us and also those who are unemployable for other reasons. You can either deal with them panhandling or stealing from you or you can spend lots of public money hiring extra cops and putting them in jail (at significant expense). Or you can try to help them with good services in the first place (certainly cheaper than arresting them and then providing them the mental health services they require in jail). It is true that when you have an area where there are more services than other places, that place attracts those who need the services. I am not sure that the solution is to stop offering good services though especially in the case of Ann Arbor. If a community as affluent as Ann Arbor can't manage these kinds of social problems in a humane way, who can? And I don't mind saying that I spend a significant amount of time in downtown Ann Arbor as well as in downtown Ypsilanti. I don't like panhandling much so I rarely give them any money. I can't remember a time when I have been harassed by a panhandler for not giving them money though. That is true of the local regular ones (like the guy with the crutch) as well as the out of town "punk week" ones. They ask me for money. I say "no thanks" and that is that.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 1:29 p.m.

You also have to consider other factors: Ann Arbor has a panhandling problem of its own. Perhaps our panhandlers are nice and endearing. But with a permissive environment (ramped up in a college town), panhandlers that are NOT Ann Arbor natives come to this town for easy pickings. Again, this was a known fact in Chief Oates's day and apparently its still here. Add to this fact that other cities look to eradicate THEIR panhandling problem by buying local panhandlers a bus ticket to Ann Arbor. Think it doesn't happen? Ask any cop. This was a huge problem in Berkeley, California and they solved it by passing ordinances to discourage panhandling overall. How many panhandlers from another city will it take before this city admits it isn't just an "Ann Arbor panhandling problem" but Ann Arbor is making it attractive for others to come here as well. Think about it. This DOES happen. Now should Ann Arbor be compelled to take care of another communities problem, too? By our lax enforcement, we already do.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

Atticus... I disagree with you. I for one was born and raised in Ann Arbor, do not own any type of business in A2, and would consider myself hard-working middle (or even lower-middle)class that has had to leave A2 in order to sustain some quality of life while trying to make ends meet. I am a college graduate that could not find work in A2 because of the horrific economy. The income or status of people posting their opinions here should not matter- as a community, citizens of Ann Arbor should be able to work, live, and enjoy the city that they live in without fear, harassment, or intimidation. We all stood together when certain groups have come to A2 to harass us (such as the KKK), and I am not trying to compare the groups by any means, I am just giving you an example. There are Ann Arbor-ite panhandelers that have been here probably as long as you have that are indeed harmless and not threatning... we are talking those that are.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:51 p.m.

from AtticusF "Just because you fancy yourself an artist, does not mean you are a talented poet on the level of Jim Morrison..." This is a joke, right? If so, it's a good one. If not, you truly need to read more "poets" than Door's singer Jim Morrison. Hehehe. This is supposed to be a University town, after all, not Hot Topic at the mall or an Oliver Stone movie. I suggest going to Dawntreader, they have a good selection of modern poets, and the panhandlers seem to favor the other side of the street.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:46 p.m.

@atticus...the homeless is one issue and aggressive panhandling is another. My concern is that many of the panhandlers whether homeless or not have become very aggressive. On many occasions I have been approached while out with my family and felt uneasy to the point of threatened. I am fairly good size and quite able to handle myself and protect my family, but there are many people that come to our downtown and campus area that are frightened by the actions of these panhandlers. Our business', residents and visitors should not have to put up with this. If this is elitist, so be it.

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:35 p.m.

A2roots, if that truely is the case, then you should know that the homeless have been a part of Ann Arbor since before you or I have been here. I just get the sense alot of these anti-homeless post are being written by 'well to do' Ann Arbor buisness owners, who simply dont want to have to look at the homeless.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

I miss the beat cops, both, UM's and the A2s. Not just did they keep in check visiting gangs, unruly students, and panhandlers, but they were great in terms of fostering a sense of community. I remember, one cop in particular, who used to give me grief for riding my skateboard. However, years later we met up at neighbor's house that was burglarized and rehashed the past. He used to also chat with me while I worked at the Michigan Theater; discussing politics and suspicious characters. It is a real shame that we no longer have beat cops and I would say that if the city were to restore beat cops, it would restore a sense of order (and community).


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

Where's "Notorious" when you need him? Oh yeah, in jail for aggressive panhandling.

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

Just because you fancy yourself an artist, does not mean you are a talented poet on the level of Jim Morrison...The problem with your statement, is that you are essentialy admiting that you are unable to put yourself in another persons shoes.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

One thing is clear: this is a passionate and volatile issue that appears to have been seething for some time. Whichever way it ends up, the city is right to discuss it and determine a course of action. In my opinion, the beat cops should be brought back downtown. Not just to curb "aggressive panhandling" but for all manner of safety concerns. Community policing under Chief Dan Oates (remember him?)was an unqualified success. The beat cops were friendly with merchants, homeless, panhandlers, street performers, customers, diners...everyone. Under who's infinite wisdom was the decision made to terminate community policing? Forget about budget issues. Safety of the citizens - all citizens - trumps everything else. It is a right everyone who pays taxes and everyone who does not pay taxes deserves equally.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

@atticus...let's try this again. I have you beat by many years on Ann Arbor residency and worked for many years assisting low and moderate households in Ann Arbor which also included the homeless. I doubt you are in a position to lecture me. Since when is panhandling a homeless issue? Some that panhandle may be, but probably many more are not. I do not want to be harassed and do not think our local business' should have to put up with this element. If I take a bus out, that will be a lot of tax dollars gone as well as contributions to worthy organizations, all gone by by.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

AtticusF. Hmm. who woulda thunk it...I'm actually an artist. I blog, write, paint oils, carve wood sculptures and even do digital art on media software. Everyday when I'm not at work I create something. My brain works just like everyone else's does, and it tells me the most effective way for me to make art and live the lifestyle that allow me to do so is to hold down a job and stay off the streets and out of trouble.

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:20 p.m.

You got anything to back that up Chase?...Otherwise it just sounds like unsubstantiated fear mongering to drum up anger.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.

We live in an economy that runs like a national craps game. There are some happy winners with bulging wallets, along with an ever-growing number of losers. These circumstances produce increased poverty and homelessness. Naturally, this will have an impact on daily life in Ann Arbor and other cities. In this context, will the obnoxiousness of a few on the streets of downtown become a convenient excuse to carry out a pogrom against panhandlers and street people in general? Due to an apparent growing fear of "the other" among local homeowners, is Ann Arbor in the process of relinquishing its cityhood in favor of full-blown status as another Detroit-area suburb? Should we commence the renaming of Tree Town as Farmington Hills West? I hope that council member Briere and the mayor, by taking initiative on this issue, will work hard to steer the resulting discussions toward rational and compassion-based decisions down the road. Responsible city leaders will not attempt to cocoon Ann Arbor from the rest of reality so that its residents won't have to encounter other people who do not look just like themselves.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:17 p.m.

a2roots Sorry, but A2 has made a commitment, an emphatic statement, that the homeless are welcome in our community. They had the opportunity to build the Delonis Center out on Ellsworth on property donated to the City, but instead chose to build an in-your-face structure as close to downtown as possible. After all, A2 didn't want to be perceived as marginalizing the poor by locating the shelter away from downtown. So, we have a problem with homeless, panhandlers and the like smack in the middle of downtown. But, wasn't that the point anyway? By placing the shelter on W Huron, only two blocks from Main Street, the message was loud and clear: "Send us your poor, your huddled masses, etc." Ann Arbor has made its bed, now we have to sleep in it. (Another observation: It seems to me that the same few people volunteer at the Delonis Center, and at St Andrews. This is true year after year. They could be characterized as good intentioned Christians seeking a way to help alleviate the problems of the less fortunate. The church I belong to is part of a rotating group that has men volunteer to spend the night at St Andrews, for example. Also, at least two churches I know of encourage their youth to volunteer to serve at the Delonis Center. I have never, ever, encountered a single council member, or someone who was clearly a secularist at either location. I may be wrong, and if so, I apologize to those who have volunteered. But it seems to me that the liberal elite are the last ones to show up willing to help out.)


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:09 p.m.

My concern is that any action taken to restrict panhandling will result in an already vulnerable group of people being subjected to the criminal justice system just because they beg for assistance although they don't pose a "real" threat to the community. Our jails and prison are already bulging at the seam and I would hate for an individual to be arrested who can't post bail and then have to linger in the system. I know that it is profitable for those in the penal system to have the jails and prison filled but we still pay for it as a community. I would encourage the committee to look at alternative ways of addressing this, if its a problem rather than criminalize an already vulnerable group.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:06 p.m.

@WiY...I know several years ago program changes, funding and the safety network available to mentally challenged persons changed significantly which has contributed to this problem. However, it is not my problem. I make donations and contribute to worthy organizations in the area. Myself and my family enjoy Ann Arbor and do not care to be harassed when downtown for whatever reason. Our local business' do not need this element around either. If this is insensitive so be it. My bleeding heart days are over. Bus tickets anyone??

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 12:05 p.m.

A2roots, the homeless are a part of Ann Arbor. They have been as long as I can remember, and I've lived here for over 30 years...If that bothers you maybe YOU are the one that should "go some where else".

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

@a2roots. I think that is part of the problem at least as far as the mentally ill go. People just want them gone. But guess what? There are mentally ill people in our society and if we don't give them the proper services in the first place and treat their illnesses, they will not be "gone". One way or another mental illness is everyone's problem.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:49 a.m.

All I want to do is get a beer and a burger without being harassed by people. Is that too much to ask?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:46 a.m.

Far too much dribble about whether they are mentally ill, homeless, spending it on booze or food. I could care less. If you want to help them take them home with you or give money to a social services agency that has helping them as a goal. I just want them gone. They are a pain in the butt and add nothing to our community. I will chip in for one way bus tickets if someone cares to organize it.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

I am appalled at the suggestion of previous posters that the solution is to help the homeless less to keep them from wanting to come here. I live on the nw side of downtown, and walk there at least several times a week. Is panhandling worse? Maybe a little. Aggressive? Not once have I witnessed anything beyond guilt/ discomfort in the 17 years I've lived here. I'm not claiming it never happens, but it is far from the norm. And the punks with signs? Really?! That's a problem?! Say no and walk on. I am proud of this city's efforts at supporting the homeless to get back on their feet. As such, I donate to shelters, not panhandlers. Want them to "go away"? Don't give them money.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.

Atticus.... I'll give you the full scoop. I worked in the Nickels Arcade. In an office there was a man that was extremely involved in eradicating the homeless issue in downtown Ann Arbor. He would actively engage both homeless and panhandlers. Often he would invite them to dinner, or to his home. He knew most of BOTH groups by name. It was he who first made a clear distinction between homeless people looking for food and aggressive panhandlers looking ONLY to intimidate. This isn't opinion. I watched him, he was very well known and all the cops knew him as well. The liquor comment is also not without evidence. The people interested in Panhandling were often followed be this particular individual, by those providing money and observed - by the now absent - beat cops walking to the State Street party store and buying alcohol...not food with the money. Of course people have to eat and do. But there are services to feed people. Curiously those city services do NOT provide alcohol. So, how does one obtain alcohol? Though other means: Panhandling. So, if anyone REALLY wants to help these people and believes they are after food, why not donate to an established organization that attempts to wean people off drugs and alcohol? That is the most constructive solution. Oh and by the way, excess amounts alcohol typically makes people aggressive and nasty before the liver is destroyed and they expire because nobody really wanted to make the tough decisions to help them properly. I respect you for wanting to help. It's nice to want to give them $3.00 every time. But if you think you're not contributing to their own demise by denying the fact that many are alcohol and drug dependent, you might be in denial.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:17 a.m.

I wont go into how I know some of these people but I know some of the people who regularly panhandle downtown. The people I know are not down and out artists or musicians although I do occasionally see people who might fit that description. The people I know are mentally ill. They are not homeless and they receive some benefits. Mostly though, their benefits cover very little. Only someone with excellent money management skills can make what they get stretch a whole month. These people are mentally ill and tend to spend their energy dealing with that rather than managing their money. And yes, some of them are addicted to drugs (usually caffeine, nicotine and sometimes alcohol). Mostly though, the people I know spend their money on luxuries that their benefits don't cover. Things like shampoo or cleaning supplies or clothes or going out to coffee with a friend. I'll admit that I seldom give money to panhandlers unless I know them personally. Mostly this is because like many here, it is a behavior I dislike and I don't want to encourage it. Instead I make a point of donating the money I would have given to a panhandler to some social services agency.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:17 a.m.

The city should not be in the business of providing human services. With municipal human services provision, the poor move in to take advantage of them, the costs thereby rise, taxes go up and the middle class moves out to the townships to avoid the taxes, thereby depleting the tax base that funds that service provision in the first place. It's a simple recipe for long-term fiscal disaster. The city of Ann Arbor should not sow the seeds for its own bankruptcy simply because it's kind-hearted enough to shoulder the responsibility shirked by the county and the state.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

I don't think this is isolated to just downtown Ann Arbor, but all of Ann Arbor. I have seen an increase of homeless people in general in the past few years. Most likely due to the economy. On the NE side, you have the people holding signs asking for food and money off the exits on Plymouth Rd. Since we moved to the west side, we see many homeless/runaway teenagers living somewhere of Wagner Rd. near the highway. I dont know if panhandlers are getting more aggressive in downtown Ann Arbor, but I am more concerned with the homeless teenagers. I would like to know what the issue is there. Has anyone else noticed this?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:46 a.m.

"perhaps the mayor should start eating his lunch again at Liberty Plaza like he once did" That's an excellent idea. Instead of being "told that it's primarily a couple of individuals causing problems on Main Street" he could see for himself. A mayor should have some idea of what's going on in his city.

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

Javajolt, and I quote, "it is a well-known fact most of these people are not seeking food". How exactly would you know what each indavidule spends the money on...As I said before, it's a case of you making an assumtion by what you've seen from a few people. Also have you ever considered the posibility that these people may have already eaten a meal in the morning, and they may be thinking about getting a meal later in the evening with the money? Just because they dont immediately use the money to buy food, doesn't give you the right to assume they are going to spend it on booze.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

Javajolt1... I completly agree with you. I have felt targeted by certain individuals looking for money because I am a woman. Atticus F.... You drive a Mercedes and you only coughed up $3.00?? Wow. What a martyr. :)


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

as a shop owner downtown I can say that with no police beat presence there is more panhandling. Aggressive to me is blocking someone on the sidewalk to hit them up for money. Aggressive to me is when that person says no the panhandler curses them half way down the block. I have also expierienced more shoplifting as well as my other shop owner friends. from Jones's statements I read what is unwritten, Ann Arbor is known to be a good place for homeless to come, especially with our big homeless shelter and free meals. We've built it and now they come in droves. Jones is also not the only cop to say when he worked for another department it was the practice to shuttle homeless to Ann Arbor. Cops know eachother, on other articles written on police sargeants and officers have all stated that other cops from other departments have let them know that bringing thier homeless to a2 was common practice. perhaps the mayor should start eating his lunch again at Liberty Plaza like he once did.

peg dash fab

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:53 a.m.

I'm usually good for a buck or two when asked because most panhandlers are emotionally disabled and truly down and out. But that guy with the crutch really steams me. He is aggressive and filthy; I'm sure most people are giving him some coin just to get him out of their sight and smell. I have seen him downtown for years, carrying his crutch casually until a mark appears, whereupon he goes into his physical disability act. Hey, Chief Jones, can't you drop that guy off in Jackson or sump'n?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.

@Atticus F. I said no such thing. If you're going to refute my comments, at least get them right without adding your own spin to it. I said these were observations working 20+ years downtown. I never lumped groups together. If fact, I took great pains to make a distinction between homeless and aggressive panhandlers - because there *is* a difference. In that picture there you're a big guy with a big gun. I would imagine you have NOT been approached aggressively. Neither have I. But that doesn't mean I and others have not seen it frequently. Before you refute a comment, please carefully read it first.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

I don't go downtown unless I'm packing....a sandwich that is to hand out to the starving artists!

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

javajolt, I'm glad you are able to lump an entire group of people into one catagory by the actions of a few. unfortunatly your oppinion is not based in reality. How dare you say "every homeless person who ask for change is going to spend it on booze". That's completely untrue, and an insult to the people who truely are asking for money for to feed themselves.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

I don't go downtown unless I'm packing....a sandwich that is to hand out to the starving artists!

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.

Shadow manager, the brains of true artist and musicians function differently then ours. It's not a cut and dry as you make it out to be. They often have trouble staying organized and fitting into society...And thats the exact point I'm trying to make. we are becoming intolerent of people who can not function in todays society, and many of these people do include artist and musicians..

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:32 a.m.

Ajb1980, the point I'm trying to make is that we are becoming more intolerant day by day. One minute we're locking up the guy with the crutch, the next minute we are going after the girl with the peircings, and the guy with the facial tattoo. Also, I haven't had the same experiences with panhandlers that you CLAIM to have had, but I will share a recent encounter that I had... I had stepped out of my Mercedes at Summit Party Store and walked past a motly group of people with dreadlock, mohawk, and pink hair. As I was getting in my car one of them said "sir can you spare some change", they were probably expecting me to say "GET A JOB!", but I reached into my pocket and gave them $3.00... They said "thank you".


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:30 a.m.

For the record, I would like to share my tried and true and courteous response to all panhandlers. When asked if I'd like to donate, I answer with a polite "No Thank You". Works everytime.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:30 a.m.

It's not a "couple of guys". And no, it's not necessarily homeless people in need. Some of the "panhandlers" are professionals pulling down tax-free money by intimidating mostly women, families and students. I have worked downtown for years and mentioned in the last article about panhandling it is a well-known fact most of these people are not seeking food. How do I know this? I have witnessed numerous times people bringing food to some of these "professionals" and getting screamed at because they want cash. Not food. I've seen people offer money if they followed them to a place where they could get food - not alcohol. Again, no dice. I've not seen this one or twice. I've seen it on State Street dozens of times. Even the beat cops that used to be assigned to State St. would chuckle about it. Make no mistake. Some of these panhandlers are looking to intimidate by sizing up particular people then aggressively approaching them where they cough up money out of fear for safety. Empathy is one thing. Allowing a group to change the vibe of a city through their aggressive actions is another. It's time to do something.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.

"Struggling artists" and "future musicians" should be at home working on their art or in the studio honing their skills; not hanging out on street corners every day all day angling for a handout. A Bum's a bum, and most of these new panhandlers are just that. Most aren't even homeless.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:25 a.m.

aggressive (-grsv) adj. 1. Characterized by aggression: aggressive behavior. 2. Inclined to behave in an actively hostile fashion: aggression /grn/ Show Spelled [uh-gresh-uhn] Show IPA noun 1. the action of a state in violating by force the rights of another state, particularly its territorial rights; an unprovoked offensive, attack, invasion, or the like: The army is prepared to stop any foreign aggression. 2. any offensive action, attack, or procedure; an inroad or encroachment: an aggression upon one's rights. 3. the practice of making assaults or attacks; offensive action in general. 4. Psychiatry. overt or suppressed hostility, either innate or resulting from continued frustration and directed outward or against oneself. Aggressive panhandling is not a problem if you treat it for what it is (a threat of force), are not afraid to say "NO!" and able to defend yourself. Food for thought. 1*


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:20 a.m.

Atticus F.... We are not talking about people that are starving artists, or anyone that may be perceived as "different" because they have facial tatooes, mohawks, piercings, etc. I am not afraid, upset or concerned about the Diag crowd, anyone that would be at the Fleetwood at 3 am, or hanging out outside of The 8 Ball...please know that I have always loved people like "Shakey Jake". Ann Arbor celebrates diversity and acknowledges that those that "break the mold" are the people that make Ann Arbor the amazing community that it is. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate Ann Arbor now that I no longer live there.

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor is driving out artist and musicians by the boatload, due to it's new elitist attitude. That person with the mohawk, or the long beard sitting on the corner asking for change, could easily be a struggling artist or future musician. And you people are trying to put them in jail.

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

Has anybody considered the possibility that agressive panhandling arrest are up because the police are enforcing more. Summer time in Ann Arbor has always brought bus loads of hippies, punk rockers, ect. I can remember this happening 15 years ago...I think the only difference is that Ann Arbor is now being more intolerant.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:39 a.m.

Dear Mayor Hieftje, As an Ann Arbor native, I spent 28 1/2 years of my life living in a city that I loved. Over the years (and especially the last couple), the panhandeling problem has gotten obnoxiously out of control... face it-other cities laugh at their perception of the "liberal bleeding heart" Ann Arbor. Panhandeling is an unfortunate situation for many right now in Michigan due to the state of the economy... the lack of jobs that pay people what they deserve, and people loosing their homes left and right. However, please know that there are many pnahandelers that come to Ann Arbor because it is a way of life. It is a life choice. For many others, addiction and mental illness is a large factor. While this is an unfortunate situation, it is extremely unfair and obtuse to say that as a city we need to make sure that we are "reacting to actual problems and not perceptions about what is happening downtown." Not only are you not acknowledging a huge problem, but you are also endangering your constituants... especially by pulling Ann Arbor Police Officers off the streets. I myself was accosted on several occasions when I worked downtown by a "pan handeler" that was always intoxicated and would SCREAM racial slurs and sexually explicit comments at people walking by the Co-op on 4th Ave. When I would go and eat my lunch outside on one of the benches provided on the corner of 4th Avenue, he and his buddies would harass me. Needless to say I did not feel safe and stopped eating my lunch outside. This is just one example of many that have happened to the people of this city. Due to the declining economy in Ann Arbor (outside of the University of Michigan bubble), and the fact that the Ann Arbor Police Department has not hired a new Police Officer in over 13 years (and has laid off many of the Officers that it did have), my husband and I left our home, families, and friends to try and find jobs in a state that was hiring law enforcement. We ended up in one of this countries largest (and most dangerous) cities so that my husband could actually work as a police officer. We hate living where we are and would love to be home in Ann Arbor. Please wake up and acknowledge "actual problems" in your city. Sincerely, A Displaced Ann Arbor-ite

simply amazed

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:38 a.m.

Does the mayor actually walk the streets of downtown Ann Arbor to see what's "actual" and what's "perception"? Just asking. I work downtown and yes, it has been worse. Not my's actual. And Forever 27, I do have compassion for the homeless and when I could, I've given generously to shelters and helping hand groups. But I certainly can't help much now when I'm on the verge of homelessness myself. Please walk the walk and post your address so I know where to send those that need money, food, smokes and shelter.

Jay Allen

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:30 a.m.

Top Cat is dead on. That is my take. Thomas Jones, seeing "them" as you said, they are people too. And, just because you "see *them*" does not mean they are being aggressive.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

dgomg1 - I am a little taken back by your surprise that someone would do what Chief Jones did. In the real world, it's human nature to generally take the path of least resistance. Some people insist on viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, but people take advantage of other people every second of every day. Some are very good at it too.

Jay Allen

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

"Mayor John Hieftje cautioned Monday night the city needs to make sure it is reacting to actual problems and not perceptions". Should have used this train of thought on the couch ban. Okay, let's assume there is a panhandling issue (in which I have never had an issue with and I am downtown regularly). We cannot pay for it because we have no money. But we have legislation we cannot enforce and we have a Police Boat........We do have that going for us!


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

Jesus said we are our brothers keeper. That means giving hand outs to all who need it.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:17 a.m.

I have a couple questions: 1) are all, or even the majority, of the panhandlers in our town homeless people or just trying to play homeless for the money. 2) of those that have gotten aggressive, are they homeless or just drove in to make a buck? I am one who won't give a dime in cash on the street. I may,rarely, give a gift card to a sandwich shop for someone who seems to be really desperate. I tend to think we have done comparatively well by our homeless folks in Washtenaw County. I also think that Chief Jone better make sure other enforcement agencies get caught dumping their problems on us. Its not compassionate, its disgraceful.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 8:13 a.m.

We are downtown all the time. It's a great place, and I feel safe. That one guy with the crutch is such a bull dog though... OMG - look a homeless person! Watch out! - there is someone who was turned away from mental health care by Reagan era conservatives! Eeeewww, watch out dear, there is someone who doesn't look like me or act like me! Run away, run away! Retreat to Birmingham, seek shelter in Bloomfield Hills!


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:53 a.m.

This seems more like treating the symptoms and not the disease. Homelessness is a result of common problems such as mental illness, addiction, and just plain bad luck/choices. We need to focus more on preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place rather than demonize them for it. I'm not saying that the city can do something like this on their own, but lets keep this in perspective guys. The homeless are human beings and deserve to be treated as such.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:48 a.m.

The 90s were a colorful era for bums in downtown...Crazy Horse, Randy, Queenie, the Dude Selling Shrooms on South U....classic characters! Bums nowadays just seem to be mailing it in....

Top Cat

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:42 a.m.

Just my experience but I have never found a panhandler to be "aggressive". The Council worries about this, couches on the front porch and non-events of discrimination against Muslims. Why can't they focus on fixing the bridges and roads?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.

"Some say panhandlers have become moe agressive since city pulled beat cops off the street." I would venture that statement is accurate.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:39 a.m.

Some people need to get out more and experience life outside the bubble of Ann Arbor. Panhandlers here are less aggressive than other cities. The recession is tough on lots of people particularly the homeless and jobless. It's no different here than it it is anywhere else.

Thomas Jones

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:34 a.m.

I'm glad they are taking action. I dislike seeing them on every other corner!


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:32 a.m.

Lordy Lordy! Take me back to the days of my youth when the homeless had names. Grippy the One Armed Wino - Sea could count them on one hand, harmless fringe dwellers all. Remember?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:27 a.m.

I hope the task for does their six month study during warm months in the spring and summer. The panhandling tappers off during the cold weather.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 7:22 a.m.

Is this police chief for real? Give me a break Chief Jones, your actions were simply dumping your problem on someone else. Please don't make it sound magnanimous of you!!! These quotes attributed to the chief are bizarre at best.

Somewhat Concerned

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 6:44 a.m.

It's why I rarely go downtown, and it's why I don't take guests to restaurants downtown. Cops do nothing, but I'm not sure a law would change that. They prefer to ride around in cars, talking on their cell phones.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 5:46 a.m.

Subsidize it and they will come. It's human nature to go where you are treated best. If I were homeless in Michigan I'd hitchhike to Ann Arbor in a second. Panhandling, public urination and all the vestiges of the downtrodden are parcel to situation as designed.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 5:36 a.m.

"some residents have expressed a desire to restore downtown beat cop positions that were cut last summer, but the city's budget is tight these days." Police without expensive patrol cars are much cheaper than police with expensive patrol cars. The foot and bicycle patrols, and perhaps horse and electric scooter patrols, should be reinstated immediately.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 5:23 a.m.

Too funny. Chief Jones used to take homeless people to Ann Arbor for handouts? And he is making it sound as though he did it out of kindness? And now he is the chief of police in Ann Arbor. Maybe it retrospect it might have been a service to his community to volunteer to help and work to get grants for a local homeless shelter, eh? That's what leaders do. Wow.