Aggressive panhandling in Armory Square

Neighbors dining in Armory Square are starting to complain, saying the people asking them for money are using aggressive tactics. Business owners are noticing it as well.

If you've been to Armory Square lately, you've probably been stopped once or twice by panhandlers asking for money. While this is not a new problem, business owners say the panhandlers have been more aggressive lately and are even deterring people from coming downtown.

"They're preying on the people that are working out here during the day. And, they're preying on the people that are actually customers that are down and around here at night," says Thomas Vreelend, Kitchen Manager at Syracuse Suds.

Customers looking to shop or have a night out say they're a little afraid.

"I feel like anytime that I'm out, I run into people and they'll be asking or maybe even following me sometimes. It can be a little scary, especially for women," says Alberta Qamar.

Whether you're seeing regulars or new faces, many people that CNYcentral spoke to Wednesday say the panhandlers have certain techniques to reel you in.

"You'll find them in garages. They'll make it like they're helping direct you into a spot that you're parallel parking in and in turn they want a dollar because they think they directed you into a spot," says Vreelend.

After reaching out to Syracuse police, they say that panhandling is actually not illegal unless they're physically putting their hands on you. Then that becomes a crime.

"Maybe they feel that it's they're right to sit on the corner and beg for money. I don't understand how New York City got rid of theirs. And the city of Syracuse can't get rid of ours," says P.J Goodman, Owner of Sweet On Chocolate.

Business owners just hope that this aggressive behavior isn't driving customers away.

"They've cornered somebody getting out of their car. They wouldn't let them out of their car unless they gave up money or cigarettes. That's a problem," says Vreelend.

In the past, the Syracuse Common Council has considered tougher laws against panhandling, but the conclusion was there are already enough laws on the books if the behaviors gets too aggressive.

Because of the increased panhandling activity, downtown business owners are already noticing their customers heading to the mall instead of shopping local.