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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina’s capital city is pushing panhandlers out of its downtown district and nearby areas, with police issuing more than 400 citations this year.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that police arrested eight people Tuesday for begging without a permit. Panhandling arrests in 2011 are at a five-year high.

Raleigh police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan says police are enforcing an ordinance on the books and not targeting panhandlers during the holidays. Police say they are acting on public safety concerns, including beggars blocking rights of way.

Neither the city nor Wake County charges a fee for a begging permit. Wake County permits must be renewed weekly. Raleigh issues yearly permits.

Neighboring Johnston County is considering requiring applicants to undergo criminal background checks for a panhandling permit.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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