JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is working to send the message that panhandling is illegal.
One group of panhandlers that moves from city to city said Jacksonville isn’t all that friendly.
"It’s hard to make money here. The cops harass us, arrest us for almost nothing,” said one, who only identified himself as Goblin.
Another woman recently found herself behind bars for panhandling as well. Alina Antonescu is accused of using her own children to get cash and gift cards at stores and restaurants in the Oakleaf area.
"I think there are a small portion of them abusing the kindheartedness of individuals in Duval County,” said Andre Ayoub, who is assistant chief of Zone 1 for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. "That's the element that if we have to put them in jail, that's what we'll do."
But JSO is also taking a long-term approach, partnering with groups like Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition of Northeast Florida to connect those who have legitimate issues with services.
The partnership is focusing on Zone 1, which includes the central core, as police said it was a hot spot for homelessness and other societal issues.
"By working with the Sheriff's Office to address the underlying issues, it helps us to more people from homeless to permanent housing,” said Dawn Gilman, executive director of the coalition.
Panhandling is banned in the central core of Jacksonville, and is also banned under state statute. It is a misdemeanor, which carries only a couple of days of jail time at most.