A few months back, we reported on fake panhandlers arrested in Fort Myers . The two people arrested were posing as non-profits employees as they panhandled on the intersection of US-41 and Boy Scout Drive.
Kenneth Gerald Bull and John Pernell Frye were charged with municipal ordinance violation (asking, begging or soliciting alms).
They seem to not have learned their lesson -- the duo was caught panhandling again. However, this time Bull and Frye were not arrested.
The two panhandlers have been going around Southwest Florida claiming to be a part of the New Life Church in Tampa.
We made a call to the Tampa church. Pastor Tom said his church has nothing to do with these guys. His church has received calls from all over. Most recently, New York.
"It’s not us cause we are actually opposed to panhandling," Pastor Tom said.
It is illegal to panhandle in Lee County. If any charity or person is asking for donations at an intersection, they are required to have a permit from the county.
Once they have a permit, the workers are required to wear a safety vest, along with setting up warning signs 500 feet in advance of the location they will be soliciting.
Nowadays, the effectiveness of panhandling is questionable. A U.S. Bank Cash Behavior Survey has found that American adults usually do not carry cash. Among the survey respondents, 50 percent said they carry cash less than half of the time to use on daily expenses, such as coffee from Starbucks or groceries from the supermarket.
With less cash in their hands, it is less likely the panhandler will receive a monetary donation, such as Bull and Frye, now than in previous years. But, that does not mean the panhandling trend will end, even when the culprits have been previously arrested for the municipal ordinance violation.
So what should you do if you run into guys like these?
Check, their hands to see what their holding. If it's a sign, make sure to read the sign carefully. If you're still not sure about donating money, ask questions. Ask about the organization they are a part of. If after all this, you still do not feel safe about donating money, call the police immediately.
If you happen to see Kenneth Bull and John Frye asking for "donations," just keep it moving and call the police. No reason to teach them a lesson -- we already know they did not learn from the first one. You can call the Fort Myers Police Department on their non-emergency line at (239) 321-7700.