Panhandling troubles in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

Kelly Munoz coaches her daughter Haley's t-ball team 'The Giants'. And she lives across the street from Cary Park. A couple of blocks away is the daily group of panhandlers along Shaw Avenue.

Captain Al Maroney said, "They're taking advantage of our citizens by appealing to their sympathy. And they're out there by choice not by chance."

Back at Cary Park, Munoz says those homeless participants make their way to this park to hang out or sleep.

Munoz said, "All hours of the day and night. They'll be out here at 3, 4 o'clock when the games are going on. And it's not a very comfortable situation."

This mom is fearful for all the kids who play here and who may be watching them. She emailed Fresno's Mayor Ashley Swearengin and heard from Greg Barfield the city's homeless expert. And later was contacted by Fresno Police Lt. Don Gross. He explained police are limited by law in what actions they can take.

Munoz said, "We've tried at first to letting the police department handle it but when we were told they couldn't, we've been asking them to leave."

That's when she connected with Action News. Captain Maroney told us the problem got worse when deep budget cuts to Fresno city services were made along with reductions at the police department led to focusing resources on violent crime.

Captain Maroney said, "What you're seeing is just one of the symptoms of the things that we have fewer people to address."

Munoz said, "I don't know at what point it becomes loitering and not using the park. I think there's a fine line."

Absent evidence of a crime, law enforcement is limited, and singling out the homeless for removal from parks says Maroney, would be discrimination.

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