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Watch and Learn

I had a speaking engagement yesterday morning with a business association. One of the topics that came up was the proliferation of panhandlers in Lincoln. The attendees told me stories about annoying and aggressive panhandlers. Some of what they described was completely legal, some illegal.

Illegal panhandling is a difficult offense to prove without a direct witness, and the simple fact of the matter is that arresting offenders for “aggressive panhandling” or other similar violations usually just does not solve the problem. The small fine, coupled with credit for time served, means that in many cases the illegal panhandler is right back out doing the same thing tomorrow.

I have blogged about it for years, spoken about it to the media many times, mentioned it several times on my radio interviews, and talked about it to numerous civic groups and individuals over the years. The message seems not to be sinking in.

The only solution is to convince citizens — whose instincts are entirely pure — not to give money to panhandlers, ever. Give your money to Centerpointe, Friendship Home, St. Monica’s, the People’s City Mission, Gathering Place, Matt Talbot Kitchen, the Center for People in Need, the Barnabas Project — whatever. But do not give it to a panhandler with a cardboard sign. Ever.

I urge you to Google the words “panhandler” and “scam”. Click the “videos” link. Watch numerous news stories from around the country, and learn that things are not always what they seem. Do not give money to panhandlers. You are enabling, not helping, and often simply being scammed.

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Tom Casady
Director of Public Safety
Lincoln Department of Public Safety, Nebraska