Panhandling concerns a Wichita neighborhood

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KAKE) -

At the Mead Neighborhood Association meeting a member of the Wichita Police Departments Homeless Outreach Team fielded questions from folks about panhandlers getting too aggressive when it comes to asking for money.

We have all seen it at stop lights. People holding signs asking for money. Some people do give money, but panhandling in Wichita is illegal. Residents in the mead neighborhood want to know what can be done to curb the problem. 

"The 'HOT' team has been really good about it, but their hands are tied by a supreme court ruling," said George Theoharis

According to the police department's Homeless Outreach Team, known as 'HOT', it is still against the law to ask someone for money. However, a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court means panhandling could be considered free speech. According to State Representative Jim Ward speaking at a neighborhood association meeting: Panhandling is a gray area. 

"Somebody comes up to you and says can I get five bucks for a pack of cigarettes or something like that, now you are in a gray area. The officers are in a position to say gosh is that speech?" said Ward.

Theoharis is worried about aggressive or brazen panhandlers that his neighbors have told him about.

"Someone came up and knocked on their door and was begging and that's when I starting to have a problem with that," said Theoharis.

According to the 'HOT' team if someone panhandles on private property they are trespassing, and you can ask them to leave. Theoharis admits he can't offer a solution but would like to see some changes before the city is on a national stage. 

"We definitely need to do something because we have the NCAA tournament coming in 2018 and we definitely don't need a bunch of panhandlers making our city look bad," said Theoharis. 

According to the 'HOT', don't give money to a panhandler or homeless person. If you feel moved to give, donate that money to organizations that can help those in need in the long run. 

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