Ride the Market-Frankford or Broad Street subway lines in Philadelphia long enough, and it's only a matter of time before someone asks for a handout.
Since the beginning of April, however, plainclothes and uniformed SEPTA police officers have been working to curb subway panhandling. The transportation agency reported that the enforcement campaign, which is focused on preventing begging on board trains, came after a surge in customer complaints about aggressive panhandling.
Authorities said a first-time offender will not face charges or arrest, but will be removed from the train and offered a ride to an appropriate agency providing social services. The person panhandling won't be forced to seek help and can decline the ride.
First contact with SEPTA police serves as a warning, and a second offense would result in charges, said Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesman. Charges could vary, depending on the circumstances, he said, but a disorderly conduct charge or something related would be likely.
The enforcement surge began April 2, and in the first week, five people were removed and warned not to beg on the train. None of them accepted a ride to a social service facility, Busch said. Although complete statistics for the second week of enforcement are not available, as of April 13 three additional incidents were reported. SEPTA has not yet reported anyone being charged with disorderly conduct.
The enforcement effort is expected to continue indefinitely, Busch said.