AUBURN (CBS13) – Downtown Auburn is a big draw for tourists, but some say it comes with an increase in the number of panhandlers begging for change. Now, the city is doing something about it.
The town was founded on the backs of those panning for riches in the 1800s, but the Gold Rush is over and Auburn wants to get rid of those now panhandling on the side of the road.
It seems harmless — someone asking you for a few spare dollars — but the problem of pesky panhandling is growing and it may be hurting business.
“Tourists don’t like being hassled by panhandlers,” said one citizen.
Auburn police Chief John Ruffcorn says arresting them doesn’t solve the problem. So he hopes a new kind of campaign will help.
“There will be posters posted in some of our stores, as well as business cards that we can hand out to our citizens as where they can actually donate and find help,” he said.
With tourism dollars at a premium, shop owners like the idea of curbing the panhandlers.
“We want them to stop and spend money here, and not have to be bothered with someone sitting on the corner with their handout,” said Anita Lowe with Auburn Old Town Gallery.
However, not everyone believes the city should be targeting those trying to make a few dollars.
“This is a free country and those folks can go wherever they want,” said one man.
The chief says where they typically end up is in jail, which then costs taxpayers who gave a few dollars even more money.
“Generally, every dollar that’s handed out the window generally it’s $7 to clean up the mess associated with that, through officer’s time, through incarceration and through cleaning up this homeless encampments,” said Ruffcorn.
The campaign will cost $2,500. The money comes from the city’s general fund, but the chief says it’s money well spent.
“So if I can spend a nickel on a card compared to $7 on the back-end, I’m saving money — a lot of money,” said Ruffcorn.
If the campaign is successful, city council is open to spending more money to get rid of the panhandlers.
Ruffcorn says the idea was born after they realized creating harsher penalties was not going to stop the problem.