8 arrests in St. Augustine not homeless crackdown, police say

Police say they are responding to citizens' concerns

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Police say complaints about aggressive panhandling, drinking in public and other issues have forced a crackdown in the nation's oldest city.

Eight people were arrested last night in the downtown St. Augustine area. Police say this was not a bust of homeless people; that they are just cracking down on various crimes, but a look at the arrest reports shows that all of the arrests list the people as homeless. 

Walking down St. George Street, there’s something new: signs on storefronts telling people not to give money to panhandlers. 

Some of the store owners who posted them were hesitant to talk about why, but they told News4Jax they are now beginning to see some action. 

The eight people were arrested on various charges from public drinking aggressive, panhandling and even DUI. They were all listed as homeless. 

Tuesday, others on the street were soliciting money, but they’re not worried about being arrested. 

"Not really, because I don’t drink or do drugs," said Tall Tree, who said, yes, that is his real name and that he is homeless. "I think that’s the whole thing about it was, they were drunk and it was aggressive panhandling, because just sitting here they really don’t bother you."

Since the first of the year, police have made 30 arrests on similar charges In downtown St. Augustine. Police said there’s a reason for this.

"What it is, is that there’s been an increase in calls from our citizens in St. Augustine," said C.C. Aiple, of the St. Augustine police. "We are responding to the area more often, which results in us observing the actions that are being done."

Police said they’re not cracking down on homelessness, only the crimes that may be surrounding it, such as aggressive panhandling and drinking in public. Some of the store owners said the crackdown appears to be working.

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