FORT WORTH -- If you’ve noticed fewer panhandlers at Fort Worth intersections, it might be because police have started to make more arrests instead of merely issuing tickets.
Police say they are responding to citizen complaints about aggressive begging, and rising crime in areas frequented by panhandlers.
Records show some people have been ticketed and arrested many times.
One man received at least eight tickets and was arrested twice since early September. Another was arrested and transported to jail three times this week alone, including twice on Tuesday.
Brett Burnett, 31, said he was told when he went to court Wednesday night that he had 21 warrants for not responding to multiple citations. Yet we found him holding up a sign and begging for money again Thursday afternoon at his familiar spot at Horne Street and I-30.
He said he was classified as indigent, released from jail, and didn’t know what else to do.
Police say they also hand out literature to link arrestees with resources for people who are homeless or need help with substance abuse and mental health issues. Burnett would have received a lot of those brochures, called “pocket pals,” since descending into homelessness in his early 20s.
Cindy Crain with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition said the arrests might be a deterrent, but won’t stop panhandling. But she said the arrest reports do help identify the most chronic offenders -- information that can be essential to outreach teams trying to help.
Crain met up with Brett Burnett a few minutes after we spotted him. His fair skin was badly burned, and his red hair matted. Someone had given him a military MRE for dinner. Crain said it is always a bad idea to give money.
Burnett promised Cindy Crain he would meet an outreach team Friday at a certain place and time. That is, if he’s not back in jail by then.