KSFY Undercover: Panhandling comes with a price - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

KSFY Undercover: Panhandling comes with a price

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Sioux Falls city councilors recently approved a panhandling ordinance. It will soon be illegal for panhandlers to collect money in certain areas of the city.

It's an ordinance that has been talked about for months and now it's set to start the beginning of November.

The new law won't allow people to solicit in public. Private property is OK but you'll have to get permission by the owner. It will be illegal to panhandle aggressively and you won't be able to ask for money from cars in traffic.

Two weeks ago, councilors decided it would be in the best interest for our city to put an end to people begging drivers for cash. The police department brought the ordinance to city leaders attention saying it's a traffic issue and it can causes safety problems.

We're going to show you how easy it is to make a buck and why drivers feel the need to help these panhandlers.

41st Street. One of the busiest areas for drivers in Sioux Falls and it can also be a busy area for panhandling. You've probably seen people standing at off-ramps begging for a buck.

We talked to a panhandler before the city voted on the ordinance.

Reporter: This could be illegal pretty soon, panhandling.

"I'm not from around here. I'm a traveler, escaping the cold, the harsh winter," Nicolas Mayberry said.

Reporter: Where are you from? Colorado Springs, Colorado. How did you get here? Hitchhiked. You hitchhiked this whole way?

"Yes, ma'am," Mayberry said.

Panhandler Nicolas Mayberry says he got to Sioux Falls by current military members, veterans or even people with the church picking him up. He just got into town and already he's making money.

"So far in the past hour I've made $15," Mayberry said.

Reporter: Are you finding people are giving you money?

"Sometimes. It depends on the location. A lot of it depends on the day, the time of day," Mayberry said.

But what would make someone do this? It's a question we asked him.

Reporter: What happened that brought you to this point?

"I was homeless in Colorado Springs, Colorado in January 2011. I lost my job and it was cold. The shelter was full so I just decided one day I'm going to hit the road," Mayberry said.

Reporter: Some people might be ashamed to do it. Do you feel that way at all?

"After doing it for over a year, I'm kind of used to it. When I first started yeah, I was. I was very embarrassed," Mayberry said.

But Mayberry isn't the only panhandler who has stood on this corner.

We talked with the Sioux Falls Police Department. They tell us it has become quite a problem.

"We certainly see people standing along off-ramps or intersections asking people for money," Officer Sam Clemens said.

From January 2012 until now, it's drivers who have been calling police complaining about panhandlers.

"We've probably had around 165 different calls from people either begging or panhandling and those are going to come from a number of different places," Clemens said.

Which is why after a city vote it will soon be illegal in certain areas of the city.

"They're (panhandlers) specifically coming here looking for money and asking for money and that's one of the things we don't want the word to spread and we don't want more people coming here just for that specific reason of trying to get money from people," Clemens said.

We wanted to see what it was like so KSFY weekend anchor Courtney Zieller decided to give it a try.

Once she got out there it wasn't as easy as she thought.

Reporter: One lady looked at me like she was sad for me. Two other guys were laughing at me.

After 15 minutes, nothing so we continued to wait and wait and finally a hand out. Then another one.

Reporter: I can't take your money, I'm undercover. I'm with KSFY News. Why did you give me money?

Driver 1: I just thought you deserved something.

And moments after that, another.

Driver 2: It's just the Christian thing to do.

Reporter: Do you know it's a problem in our city?

Driver 2: Yes. I know that.

After an hour, more than a handful of people tried to give me money adding up to about $25. But standing out here wasn't exactly easy.

Reporter: It's getting cold now.

And it wasn't just the weather, I was quite embarrassed.

Reporter: People were looking at me like I was either crazy or they felt bad for me. It was bad.

Police have advice for you. Don't give out money.

"We got a lot of services available to people who are in need to there's a lot of different avenues and agencies that help people out in Sioux Falls," Clemens said.

As for the traveling panhandler, he plans to head to southern Texas for the winter. But for now, he's thinking about where to eat.

"I eat good and make the money out here so I can eat at a restaurant and I don't have to wait in line at the soup kitchen," Mayberry said.

Reporter: So with the $15 you collected today, will you get a drink or a hot meal?

"Probably both," Mayberry said.

Again, KSFY didn't take any money from drivers.

Police say once it the ordinance starts they won't ignore the issue. They will approach panhandlers and ask if they are aware of the ordinance. If they don't leave they could be arrested.

There have only been very few arrests. Police have to see it happening for themselves.

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