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Downtown Pueblo businesses seeing aggressive panhandling

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PUEBLO, Colo. -

Downtown businesses in Pueblo would like to see more done to address aggressive panhandling. They argue that it's a safety issue that also goes against compassion for the homeless.

"I don't know the answer," said Tom Bruss, president of the Pueblo Downtown Association. "It's weighing heavy on my heart. What can we do?"

Bruss' organization represents more than 100 businesses. He said complaints from downtown workers prompted a meeting Tuesday night with someone from the Pueblo Police Department.

Police confirmed that panhandling is on the rise. They want the public to call for help when a panhandler blocks someone's path or touches them in an attempt to ask for money.

Bruss said awareness of the law could help curb the trend. The PDA printed 200 fliers detailing the loitering law and those will be up around the downtown area soon.

Downtown visitors said panhandling is a problem all over Pueblo and not just downtown. Krista Miller said she sees the increase in panhandling at work outside restaurants and on Interstate 25.

"There are a lot of people who come and visit and if they see that it may draw them away and they may not want to stop in Pueblo," said Miller.

Caesar, a panhandler who didn't want to give his last name for the story, said most people who ask for money will leave a business if they're asked to.

"If they're making the business look bad and everything, then they'll go across the street or somewhere that's not on their property," said Caesar.

Loitering and trespassing are illegal and the courts have decided that bans on panhandling are as well. Recently, a ban on panhandling passed by the City of Colorado Springs was struck down.

That makes Bruss weary of city reforms addressing issue.

"I hate to be religious but, 'What would Jesus do?'" asks Bruss. "I don't know what Jesus would do but the Downtown Association has to be proactive." 

 

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