- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2015

Police in the small Louisiana city of Slidell arrested a panhandler last week for urinating in public and decided to make an example out him after finding $800 in cash in his pockets.

The Slidell Police Department posted a photo of 59-year-old Franklin Jones, a transient, on its Facebook page, along with a message addressing the problem of begging in the area.

“Transients, also known as beggars or homeless, are often a hot topic of debate for Slidell residents. There are people who feel these individuals all need to be arrested. Some feel they should be offered help. Some feel we should just leave them alone,” the Slidell Police Department wrote Friday, a local ABC affiliate reported.

“Literally, everyday, someone either calls Slidell Police or sends us a message on Facebook asking us to do something about this ‘problem.’ Some people feel sorry for these individuals, other don’t. Granted, some have legitimate issues, and we do everything we can to offer them help, but those are far and few between,” the department continued.

The post said Mr. Jones had been begging for money at the intersection of Gause and Interstate 10 for “well over a year” and had been offered a job on multiple occasions. The department alleges that Mr. Jones “chooses not to work because he makes a better living by begging people for money.”

Police say Mr. Jones was arrested Thursday after he allegedly urinated on the side of the road and stole a shopping cart. Police found his pockets loaded with $800 in cash, which was not seized.

“We continue to offer help, but when you can make $800 in less than a week by ‘begging,’ some people say, ‘Why get a real job?’ We’ve found jobs for people. We’ve offered assistance by bringing some of these individuals to rehab facilities. Bottom line is, it’s up to the individual person if they want help or not. All we can do is guide them in the right direction. We can’t force people to do things,” the department wrote.

Begging people for money is not against the law, further complicating matters, ABC reported.

“Slidell Police does their best to address these issues by following the letter of the law and ensuring that no one’s rights are violated. There is no easy solution to this problem, and quite frankly, it is a much bigger and deeper issue than a strictly a police matter. We hope this sheds some light for our Slidell residents and hopefully answered any questions or concerns about this issue,” the department concluded.

On Thursday, the police department’s Facebook page was listed as “currently unavailable.” The department said in a Twitter post that the page was “on vacation.”

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