BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Often, and even right now, you could find panhandlers in Baton Rouge. Business owners and individuals who work and live Downtown are now speaking up, demanding a solution be found.
"I've worked downtown for the last 20 years as an attorney, and it has never been as bad as it is right now," said John Delgado, a local attorney who works Downtown.
WAFB spoke with multiple owners and managers of restaurants, bars, and businesses Downtown Monday, Sept. 9. Most of them did not want to be identified in a report. However, many of them said the panhandling situation has gotten absolutely “terrible,” and said the presence of the panhandlers is disrupting their business and customers.
The Downtown Development District along with those local business and restaurant owners are brainstorming ways to find a solution.
“We’re aware of some aggressive panhandling and how to best handle that,” said Davis Rhorer, Executive Director of the Downtown Development District (DDD).
Recently, there’s been a number of meetings with business and property owners along with officers from the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) to address the aggressive panhandlers asking for money from the people who visit the area.
“A lot of this is people who basically may not be homeless, but they just using that as a scam to try and get money,” said Rhorer.
People like Delgado are frustrated. They say they’re hoping to see a larger police presence in the area.
“We are all sympathetic to the plight of our fellow citizens. But, at the end of the day, there are businesses downtown that are going to suffer. There is tourism related business that is going to lose people from coming down here because of the panhandling situation that we have,” said Delgado.
“Property owners and the businesses themselves can be the eyes and ears to the street. So they walk up and down, they can see what’s going on, and to better communicate with BRPD about those issues so they can respond accordingly,” said Rhorer.
The DDD says there will be more meetings on this particular issue in the future.
It is also creating a Google Group for people who live in the Central Business District to chat in, and let others know what’s going on.