Community Addresses the Panhandling Issue in the Area 02/24/14
CBS 7 News
February 24, 2014
ODESSA/MIDLAND—Since running our story about the Romanian panhandlers appearing around the Odessa/Midland area, hundreds of people have sounded off on our Facebook page calling these people scammers and wanting something to be done about the situation.
Over the last few days, various individuals with similar ethnic descriptions have been behaving oddly when approached and after they realize they're being recorded.
Their reactions are leading us to believe that something much bigger than panhandling is taking place.
A woman who witnessed the young lady panhandling this morning says she always sees her and another family panhandling on different intersections in town.
Earlier this morning, a young woman was seen panhandling near the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club off JBS Parkway in Odessa. She appeared to be of the same Romanian descent as the other panhandlers that we encountered over the weekend and in the same fashion as our previous encounters, she ran off after she noticed us recording her.
Odessa resident Carl Koch says this isn’t the first time that he’s heard of this and isn’t surprised that it is happening here.
"These people are a team that come in to get money at the corners, to draw on your sympathy to get money, and then somebody else is handling them—somebody else takes a piece of it,” Koch said.
We've observed different men, who may be the "handlers," watching the women from a distance in either a minivan or pickup truck.
Cpl. Steve LeSueur, the Communications Officer for the Odessa Police Department, says they receive calls from people complaining about panhandlers on a daily basis.
"In reference to solicitation in the City of Odessa, I have responded to calls involving individuals from Romania, who claim to be from Romania,” LeSueur said.
LsSueur says not only is there a language barrier when dealing with these people, but many of them don't have the proper identification.
"We cannot arrest for it at this time since it is a Class “C” misdemeanor” LeSueur said.
As of December 1, 2013, 12 citations have been issued by the Odessa Police Department to individuals caught panhandling.
Stay with CBS 7 as we continue to investigate the ongoing occurrences and learn what actions local law enforcement and city officials will take to help put a stop to further panhandling in the area.