Lafayette police: Panhandling becoming a problem

Residents say panhandling at the pump is happening in more and more places in Lafayette and in some cases, it's even become a group effort (WLFI).

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Residents say panhandling at the pump is happening more and more in places around Lafayette. In some cases, it’s even become a group effort.

“They’ll sometimes say, ‘Oh man, I’m out of gas and I need some money to get to Indianapolis — or I need money to do this,'” said Lafayette resident Nathan McIntosh.

Panhandlers are begging for money at different spots in Lafayette, including downtown and various gas stations around Ninth and Ferry streets. Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said it’s not just annoying, it’s also getting pretty aggressive.

“I had received a complaint from some citizens that there was panhandling, pretty aggressive panhandling taking place,” Roswarski said.

“We’ve already confronted several people downtown and have warned them to stop,” Lt. Brian Gossard with the Lafayette Police Department said. “It is against the law to panhandle.”

But one location has become a hot spot for begging — the Payless gas station on Greenbush. Panhandlers at the gas station sometimes work together.

“They felt it was kind of an organized operation, where the people would collect money then would walk over to a car and then hand it to somebody who was actually sitting there,” Roswarski said.

Police are warning people not to give panhandlers any money. They say it’s safest just to say no, walk away or call police. But for some, it’s hard not to give.

“Sometimes I get mad, and sometimes I just [give them money]. I don’t know why,” said one Payless gas station customer. “I just feel bad. And I’ve been on the streets to punish myself for a short period of time. I know what it feels like. It’s a terrible existence. But I know that there is a way. If I can do it — me of all people — trust me, anyone can.”

Police and the mayor are working to get the panhandlers the resources they need. They’re passing out pamphlets with information on transitional housing, LUM and food banks. Roswarski says panhandling will not be tolerated in the city.