SAN DIEGO - Business owners in Ocean Beach say panhandlers are becoming more aggressive and affecting business in a big way.
They say some panhandlers have become so aggressive that they have had to press charges, even make citizens arrests.
Recently, one of them shouted death threats at the owner of Galactic Comics, who provided 10News with several surveillance video clips to give an idea of just how bad things have gotten.
"Since I had my head turned … yep, there it goes in his coat right there," said David Draize, owner of Galactic Comics, as he watched the surveillance video. "So he had robbed us something about the value of about $45 … $50."
Draize provided 10News with several surveillance video clips captured from inside and outside of Galactic Comics in Ocean Beach.
He said Ocean Beach panhandlers who have become increasingly aggressive are to blame.
"When we're not turning, of course the $40 book goes into his coat," said Draize while watching the surveillance video.
Draize says one of the aggressive panhandlers seen in his surveillance video lives in an inlet between his store and another and in a video clip can be seen urinating in a cup, then dumping it in front of his store.
"A lot of these incidents are causing just a lot of extra time and burden on the local shop holders and local shop owners in the area," said Draize.
Draize feels that an anti-panhandling ordinance – like other U.S. cities have adopted – where nobody could panhandle within 15 feet of an ATM or a business entrance, would be extremely effective and help curb the situation at hand.
Other business owners are skeptical that the courts would see it through.
"Given the current legal situation, it would be futile," said Ocean Beach business owner and attorney Craig Klein.
Klein and his wife have owned the historic Clark building, which is home to eight businesses, since 1996.
"We'd just like to ask that people who come to Ocean Beach respect the town, respect the residents, respect the merchants and conduct themselves the way they would want a guest in their home to conduct themselves," he said. "It just gets tiring having to pick up beer bottles and trash off the sidewalk and other less palatable things that have been left as gifts by some of these transients and homeless people."
Klein also agrees panhandlers in Ocean Beach have become more aggressive as of late.
"They're aggressively panhandling people and what that does is it frightens folks who would come down and be an economic benefit as well as a just general benefit to the community … families and their children, people with kids," he said. "Those are the kind of people who we need in Ocean Beach to help the local economy thrive and to make people feel that Ocean Beach is a good and safe place to visit."
Klein and other business owners credit the San Diego Police Department with working to make Ocean Beach a cleaner, safer and more family-friendly environment.
However, he says a big effort on the part of those who call the streets of Ocean Beach home is much needed too.