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Police Explore Options Regarding Panhandling Problem

Reported: Dec. 27, 2013 10:31 PM EST
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SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio)-- It’s a phenomenon people are seeing a lot more of in South Charleston - panhandlers begging for money in high-traffic zones.

South Charleston Police are exploring options to crack down on it. They said panhandling is a problem, especially on days when it’s mild and sunny, with panhandlers stepping right into traffic, asking for money and creating a real safety hazard.

"They like to stand at the intersections and when traffic backs up,” Patrolman Richard Vinyard, with the South Charleston Police Department, said. “They'll walk up car to car and try to get money from anybody they can."

And along Corridor G, some of the panhandlers have even taken buses out, to take a position along the busy highway.

"One of them has a car, they all ride up there together,” Vinyard said. “Some of them have nice cars, from all the money they get from panhandling and not working."

Many of the panhandlers can be seen hanging out near the back exit to the Southridge Shopping Center.

"Drivers pay attention to the panhandlers and someone standing on the median can get your attention pretty quick," Vinyard said. “But it’s creating a traffic nightmare. You're backing up traffic. You've got accidents that can happen from people trying to watch out for you."

The holidays are an especially profitable time for panhandlers, playing on people’s emotions.

"Some of them have a dog with them for more sympathy, and some have little kids with them. They bring their children out even,” Vinyard said. "The majority of them we've checked out, they're not true. The coal miner who just lost his job, the woman who comes out there with her kids and needs help."

South Charleston Police said there is not a whole lot they can do right now. Panhandling is not a jailable offense, but you can be fined. So anything police say they can do to keep the panhandlers out of the traffic is a win.



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