St Augustine resident Michael Lyman tells Historic City News editor Michael Gold that he has been volunteering his time to help photo document what has been described as “a crisis” resulting from the exploding population of vagrant and aggressive panhandlers who are begging locals and visitors for money on the streets downtown.
At about 4:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, he told us that he was just on his way to enjoy some oysters at a friend’s house, when he passed by the area of 119 St. George Street. There, he encountered an all-too familiar situation that led him to make a police report.
“As I came north on St George Street, I noticed a group of vagrants panhandling with their dogs. I decided to video-record them because twice before I had seen the black and white dog lunge at a pedestrian and I wanted to provide police an unedited glimpse into what is going on,” Lyman stated. “I ended the video about 18-minutes later because the police had not arrived yet and I was late to my party.”
Lyman published his video to YouTube. He notified us of the address and says he also forwarded the information to television station Fox 30 Action News in Jacksonville. We’ve published a copy on Historic City News.
When Lyman found out that the police had arrived, he said that he returned to speak to them. Lyman said that they told him that he was within his rights to freely record the activities of the people and animals occupying the public streets.
“The officer told me to be careful because of who I was videotaping, implying the street people may be looking for me,” Lyman told us earlier today. “I thanked them and went back to the party.”
If you intend to watch the video, let us warn you that it is un-edited and includes vulgar language used by the beggars and directed at Lyman. “Anyone who watches this and is not appalled by what goes on here does not belong in Saint Augustine, nor should they comment on this. It is a crisis,” Lyman later commented about his recording.
- Lyman noticed the man on the ground to the left really doesn’t want to be seen, he covers his head immediately. The man on the right got in Lyman’s face and later acted like he wanted to conceal his identity.
“I understand that I was within my rights to show the officers the video and ask that every one of them who got in my face, using vulgar language, be arrested,” Lyman concluded.
- In the video an off-duty officer from Clearwater Beach can be heard and briefly seen. He cannot believe what’s going on. He said he would have arrested all three of them for panhandling. You can also hear Lyman asking the officer about some of the concerns expressed by the teenagers who approached him. Lyman asked the officer to contact him with any information he could provide to help us here.
- Business leaders, shop owners, people associated with Flagler College, and people that know officials from other places in Florida, all contacted Lyman in person and through Facebook Messenger about their concerns.
“We’re not the only ones working behind the scenes,” said Lyman. “As Nights of Lights winds down, there are a lot of people who may not show up now, but that are going to jump in and help.”
Lyman told Gold that there are more people that love Saint Augustine than those who are causing problems.