The panhandling surge in Lexington has captured the attention of city leaders and law enforcement.
The sight is becoming commonplace as drivers approach busy intersections and major thoroughfares: people holding hardmade cardboard signs seeking money. But with complaints now on the rise, Lexington police are stepping up patrols, beefing up bike units downtown, and discouraging drivers from giving into the temptation to hand over a few bucks.
Mayor Jim Gray has also formed a task force to study the matter and at-large Urban County Councilman Kevin Stinnett is working on a new city ordinance dealing with pedestrian safety.
"We want to make our community safe for everybody," Stinnett says. "We also want to help people. We're a very giving community and we want to make sure our community helps those who need to get help and this ordinance will hopefully protect and save lives at the end."
But Stinnett’s ordinance wouldn’t be the city’s first attempt to address the issue through policy – an earlier ordinance banning panhandling was struck down by the state Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds.
For now, police are encouraging residents to report any harassment and the city is recommending citizens direct panhandlers to social service agencies.