Tom Tucker, chairman of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said he hears concerns everyday from downtown business owners about panhandling. He said panhandling is also an issue for first-time visitors to Chapel Hill. "They get a cup of coffee, they go get some ice cream, they buy a T-shirt," Tucker said. "The very next experience they have is a panhandling experience." Panhandling was the main topic of a safety forum presented by the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership on Tuesday, which also discussed homelessness, signage and lighting. Concerned citizens, town staff and downtown business owners sat around tables, perched on bar stools and even stood in Jack Sprat Cafe at 161 E. Franklin St. to express their concerns. Tucker suggested two solutions to aggressive panhandling: legislative action to augment education about how to handle the situation and more police enforcement downtown. Kidzu Children's Museum board member Sandra Rich said she agrees. As an elementary school teacher in Atlanta, she said she taught children and their parents not to give money to panhandlers and homeless people, but rather to agencies that could help them. "When you're talking about education, you have to start early," she said. Chapel Hill police Capt. Jackie Carden said that nine police officers were placed downtown on Nov. 7, and that the town plans to add two more in the spring of next year to decrease panhandling and other problems. Although police presence has increased downtown, Orange and Chatham county District Attorney Jim Woodall said he's concerned with the Hillsborough jail not being able to house many people charged with panhandling and sleeping on public benches because of overcrowding. "You're not going to have a place where you can take them to get them off the street for any significant period of time," he said. Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene said she encourages everyone to think from the point of view of a homeless person and to realize that homelessness is not exclusive to Chapel Hill. "It's not just a Chapel Hill problem," she said. "It's not just a North Carolina problem. It's a national problem." Greene provided forum attendees with updates on the local 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. She said the plan will have provisions for housing, basic necessities, employment and education for the homeless. Jack Sprat owner Steve Dorozenski expressed other concerns such as signage and lighting. He said he wanted signs to be placed downtown to show visitors the way to parking decks, restrooms and University facilities. "I see a lot of people come up, especially from out of town, they just stand around," he said. "They have no idea where to go." Dorozenski said he also is concerned about the lack of light in Amber Alley and other alleys. Public Works Director Bill Letteri said he is working to improve lighting and thus safety. He presented forum participants with an update on the Streetscape Master Plan, which is geared toward the west end of downtown Franklin Street and nearby side streets. Letteri said the public works department is trying to incorporate lighting improvements into design plans by working with indoor and outdoor design firms. These issues and others will be discussed at the partnership's annual meeting and forum Nov. 28 at the Varsity Theatre. Contact the City Editor at email@example.com.