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Jacksonville’s panhandling problem grows despite new law, changes coming

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville’s panhandling problem continues at some area intersections despite a new law passed in February.

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The law was meant to give the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office the legal backing to crack down on the issue. Council passed the legislation with a 30-day grace period.

An Action News Jax investigation revealed the problem has yet to get better but is instead getting worse.

According to new data from JSO, there were 459 calls for service regarding panhandling so far this year before the law went into effect, and 663 after. That’s on average a 43% increase.

So far this year, there’s been 1,122 total calls through the end of May, which shows a slight down tick compared to 1,268 this time last year.

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However, looking at just the month of May shows a different story. May of 2023 had the highest reported calls in three years with 323. That compares to 255 panhandling calls in May of 2022 and 211 in May of 2021.

“It’s worse than what I’ve seen before. So, I can’t see where the law is being implemented,” Dan Vigil, a local, said.

“I don’t like it because every corner that you go to, someone is asking for money,” Rita Sessoms said.

Data from JSO showed Beach, Atlantic, and Blanding Boulevard were the top three panhandling hotspots.

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Council Member Al Ferraro sponsored the legislation to help crack down on the issue. “This hasn’t been done in the city of Jacksonville before. So the process has to be built on how the structure is going to be for implementing it.”

Ferraro said it’s only been implemented for less than a month and officers have issued warnings since. He added that police will give an update during the council’s Neighborhood committee meeting Monday on how it plans to move forward with implementation.

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“You should see it starting to get better, but unfortunately this is the process it takes,” he said.

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