‘Aggressive’ panhandler raises concerns in downtown Wilmington

A panhandler in downtown Wilmington holds a sign that reads "P***** off stupid people." (Photo: Ray Baca)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A man witnesses describe as an aggressive panhandler was taken by Wilmington Police this afternoon after he allegedly spit on one man, threw a bottle, and more. With Azalea Festival and tourist season coming up, some are asking when does panhandling become inappropriate?

If you’ve spent time in downtown Wilmington, you’ve probably been approached by someone asking for a few dollars or something to eat. But witnesses say an incident that happened Friday afternoon was much different than that.

- Advertisement -

“He walked by and spat on this one guy sitting there having coffee, and when the guy got up, he threw a bottle at him,” said Ray Baca, who has lived in downtown Wilmington for eight years.

Baca says Friday afternoon, he heard commotion outside his window, and looked to see a panhandler out of control.

“All I heard for probably like the next ten minutes was, all cuss words and screaming. And anybody that walked by, he was like, I’m going to kill you, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that,” Baca said.

Baca says he believes panhandling is becoming more of a problem in downtown Wilmington.

“Last week, I was walking down, and on front and market, on every corner, there was somebody begging. And that just is a bad look for Wilmington, I think,” he said.

Baca says not all panhandlers are bad people, but some make people feel uncomfortable or even unsafe.

“One of his signs says ‘I want money for crack.’ One of his signs says ‘I might have a gun,'” he said.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says someone holding a sign asking for money is protected by the first amendment, but there is an ordinance against aggressive panhandling.

Wilmington Police spokeswoman Jennifer Dandron says the man was not arrested, but was involuntarily committed this afternoon after police were called several times.