CONWAY P.D. SEES INCREASE IN PANHANDLERS

by Christian Mower on August 1, 2012

CONWAY POLICE LT. CHRIS PERLEY SAYS HIS DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN RESPONDING TO AN INCREASING AMOUNT OF COMPLAINTS THIS SUMMER ABOUT BEGGARS AND PANHANDLERS IN COMMERCIAL AREAS AND NEAR MAJOR SUPERMARKETS.

PERLEY SAYS MANY PEOPLE CALL BECAUSE THEY’RE CONCERNED THE PANHANDLERS ARE CLOSE TO THE ROAD OR THEY ARE BEING AGGRESSIVE. HE SAYS HIS DEPARTMENT ROUTINELY RESPONDS TO THOSE CALLS, IDENTIFIES THE PEOPLE INVOLVED AND MOVES THEM ALONG, IF REQUESTED BY THE OWNER OF THE COMMERCIAL PROPERTY – BUT THERE ARE NO TOWN REGULATIONS IN CONWAY REGARDING PANHANDLING.

RECORDS INDICATE PERLEY’S OFFICERS RESPONDED TO TWO INCIDENTS SUNDAY AFTERNOON.

THE FIRST, REPORTED ABOUT 3:30 P.M. WAS THAT A MAN AND A WOMAN WERE PLAYING MUSIC AND BEGGING FOR MONEY NEAR THE SOUTH ENTRANCE OF THE HANNAFORDS SUPERMARKET IN NORTH CONWAY. THE PAIR THEN LEFT THE SUPERMARKET AREA AND WALKED TOWARD A NEARBY THEATER WHERE THEY WERE ADVISED BY AN OFFICER TO STAY OFF BUSINESS PROPERTY.

A SECOND CALL CAME IN JUST TEN MINUTES LATER THAT TWO MEN IN THE PARKING LOT OF THE NORTH CONWAY IRVING CIRCLE K WERE REPORTEDLY BEGGING FOR GAS AND MONEY – THEY WERE ALSO TOLD TO MOVE ALONG.

DESPITE THE PROXIMITY OF THE TWO INCIDENTS, PERLEY SAYS THEY WEREN’T RELATED AND HE DOESN’T THINK IT’S AN ORGANIZED EFFORT.

INSTEAD, HE SAYS, IT’S JUST IT’S THE THICK OF THE SUMMER SEASON, IT’S AN AREA WITH A HOST OF COMMERCIAL BUSINESSES WITH TRAFFIC PATTERNS THAT ACCOMMODATE PEOPLE BEGGING FROM DRIVERS AND SHOPPERS.

PERLEY SAYS THE PRACTICE IS UNSIGHTLY AND UNSAFE AND HIS OFFICERS DO THE BEST THEY CAN UNDER THE “SCHEME OF ENFORCEMENT” THAT’S AVAILABLE TO THEM NOW.

THE POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS SENT SELECTMEN A MEMO WITH PROPOSALS ON THE ISSUE FOR THE BOARD TO CONSIDER. CONWAY TOWN MANAGER EARL SIRES SAYS THE TOPIC WILL BE PUT ON THE AGENDA AND DISCUSSED AT THE NEXT REGULAR MEETING OF SELECTMEN TUESDAY.