Duval County

Jacksonville panhandling complaints spike during summer, records show

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The price of inflation continues to drive up panhandling across Jacksonville, and complaints to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are up.

According to JSO records, there have been nearly 1,500 calls regarding panhandling. Some neighbors reported it is also becoming more aggressive, with many going door to door in the street.

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“It gets a little frightening sometimes too when I’m with my kids,” Jill Roncoroni, a neighbor, said.

“It’s been going up. People are more concerned now because they’re recognizing the problems they have,” Councilmember Al Ferraro, who’s running for mayor, said.

Ferraro organized a town hall in May to discuss panhandling concerns. At that time, an Action News Jax investigation discovered panhandling was up about 7% from January through April compared to the same time in 2021. Now in July, that number is up 10% over the same time period last year.

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Ferraro said it isn’t just happening at intersections. Panhandling is also spreading to parking lots. According to JSO reports, the top 5 panhandling hotspots include:

  • Beach Boulevard at University Boulevard
  • Beach Boulevard at San Pablo Road
  • 9900 Southside Boulevard (near the Avenues Mall)
  • Blanding Boulevard at Interstate 295
  • Philips Highway at Baymeadows Road

Ferraro is working with the city’s Office of General Counsel to draft legislation that would give officers more legal backing to crack down on panhandling. In 2020, a judge ruled in favor of a St. Johns County homeless man, stating that it’s legal to hold a sign on the side of the road under the Constitution.

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“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get people from encroaching on other people coming to intersections who are driving,” Ferraro said. “Stop blocking their views; stop reaching into their cars.”

The city is working with state and federal agencies on new legislation. Some ‘no trespassing’ signs have already gone up under overpasses.

City Council is on break but returns next week, which Ferraro said is when he plans to have more meetings.

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