Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have advice for dealing with a troublesome staple of city life — just say no to panhandlers asking for money. Then walk away or call 911 if they get aggressive. The money does nothing to change the person’s situation, police and service providers said, and may go toward a drug or alcohol habit, the Charlotte Observer reports. “If you have a helping heart, the city has many charities to donate to,” officer Brad Hall said. He and colleague Russ Faulkenberry have a new approach to panhandlers. They bring along service providers for panhandlers to meet after they are arrested rather than simply spend a night in jail. During undercover operations on panhandling, police now take with them people who deal with housing and homelessness, mental health, substance abuse and other issues.
“No one wakes up saying, ‘I’m going to go panhandle today, and this is the life I want,’ ” Faulkenberry said. “So we’re hoping to at least make those connections for those folks to go on that road to recovery.” Instead of going to jail for processing, panhandlers are often given a citation as well as the option of speaking directly with a service provider. None of the 19 who were offered services have been re-arrested for panhandling. One homeless panhandler who agreed to enter a detox program the night he was arrested completed the month-long process and was able to get permanent housing. Officers hope they will see many more cases like that.