BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– A Raleigh County business owner said panhandling in the area is getting worse by the day.
Eddie Torrico, the owner of Golden Corral Buffet & Grill in Beckley, said a panhandler recently entered the restaurant, stole from the buffet and then went table-to-table asking customers for money.
Torrico claimed after he politely asked the panhandler to stop harassing his guests and leave the restaurant, the man attacked him from behind.
He said panhandlers behaving brazenly and soliciting on property is unfortunately nothing new. To combat this pressing issue, Torrico is frequently forced to call police, and said he even put out new signs in hopes that they would deter panhandling.
Micheal Flannery, crew trainer at Golden Corral, said the consistent problem is starting to frighten staff and the senior customers.
“They are constantly harassed, and we get harassed in and out,” said Flannery. “It’s scary just to get to your car.”
Torrico mentioned every morning he has to pick up litter left behind from the panhandlers to keep his property clean. Furthermore, he believes many panhandlers may be misrepresenting the severity of their situation.
“This is an organized effort- these aren’t just individuals,” said Torrico. “I see them get dropped off every morning, then they work a shift, then somebody comes by and picks them up and then drops off another person.”
Torrico added he is very sympathetic to their situation but is upset his staff and customers are feeling unsafe.
“I understand that everybody has issues, but it’s just to the point now where it’s affecting the whole community,” said Torrico. “I hope that these people can get the help that they need, but I just don’t think that they’re going about it the right way.”
In turn, Torrico spoke with Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold about the issue, who said he is already working on solutions.
Mayor Rappold said he is very aware of the increasing panhandling problem, and fully plans on doing what he can to address the issue.
The American Civil Liberties Union describes panhandling as a person’s right to make a living and is a source of income.
Under this ideology, Rappold thinks that like any other business, panhandlers should have to go through the same steps. This means completing the necessary paperwork, registering as a panhandler and having a card that certifies their completion of the process- especially since their income as it currently stands is not taxed.
Rappold said in the meantime, people should not encourage panhandling.
“I implore people- don’t give them a penny,” said Rappold. “When you give them a contribution, it encourages them to show up again the next day.”
Other ways Rappold plans to help curb the panhandling is asking for more police to frequently patrol higher traffic areas to ensure everyone’s safety.
He plans on introducing this ordinance proposal to the city council soon to help bring about the change.
Ultimately, the hope is that moving forward, a resolution can be made that benefits all parties involved.