Debate over panhandling and homeless heats up in Tampa

Downtown small biz owners want panhandling ban

TAMPA - "We're trying to create a space that's welcoming to all users and all downtown guests," said Joshua Pillock.

Pillock and his partner are a month away from opening a new downtown Tampa wine and cheese restaurant called 'Crumb and Cork.'

"Part of that is making sure we address the aggressive panhandling that we currently see," said Pillock.

The small business owner and others like him are calling for a panhandling ban in downtown Tampa, similar to Clearwater and St. Pete.

"Right now if somebody comes and is accosting one of my customers, one of my staff members, and they leave and the police come, there's nothing that can be done," said Don Barco, Owner King Corona Cigars in Ybor City.

Tampa Police Deputy Chief John Bennett is pushing for stricter panhandling restrictions noting officers have seen an uptick in crimes against and committed by people who are homeless.

The suspect who attacked a woman in the Ybor City parking garage was living on the street and was also a sexual offender who absconded from North Carolina, according to Chief Bennett.

But city council members are already putting up a lot resistance saying the issue is much more complex.

Tampa's Mayor has expressed support for stricter panhandling guidelines and banning sleeping in public parks.

But council members question if Tampa has enough room to shelter people.

"We know we do not have the beds we need," said Mary Mulhern.

"If there is no bed, no where to go, we cannot arrest them," said Yvonne Yolie Capin.        

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