Panhandling is a problem. The Rockford Police Department offers this advice to people who are approached by panhandlers.
Be aware, alert, confident and prepared to act.
You are entitled to your space and do not have to be intimidated or harassed.
Do not give money to panhandlers.
Panhandling for drugs and alcohol is common.
Acknowledge a panhandler with a nod and answer the request for money by saying no, then walk away. Dont get angry or feel guilty.
You may also choose not to speak to the panhandler at all, which is OK as long as you have a well-thought-out plan on how you will conduct yourself in maintaining your confidence during this situation.
Some ploys used by panhandlers are:
My wife is sick or pregnant, and I need money for…
Im out of gas, can you spare some change?
Can you spare some change for something to eat? I havent eaten for days..
Utilize the buddy system whenever possible.
Whether you are shopping or at work, try to go with a friend. Panhandlers tend to avoid groups because it is difficult to engage one person and persuade them into giving them money. Also, you cannot be easily harassed or intimidated by the panhandler when you are with others.
Help is there for those who want it.
The City of Rockford and Winnebago County have several agencies and social services who offer assistance to those in need. Many of them accept donations.
Services offered include the following: meals, shelter, counseling, health care and employment.
Giving money to panhandlers is not the answer. Please find another way to give.
Keep in mind…
Do not give money to panhandlers! This will only encourage further behavior. Do not go into your wallet or purse in front of the panhandler.
It is not illegal to ask for money, but it is illegal to aggressively beg or intimidate a passerby, to intentionally touch or cause physical contact, to follow or persist in begging after a negative response has been given or obstruct a pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Panhandling is prohibited during evening hours after sunset and before sunrise.
Panhandling is prohibited during daylight hours: at a bus stop; in a sidewalk café; in any public parking garage; within 20 feet of an ATM; within 20 feet of a church or place of worship; when panhandlers are in a group of two or more people.
For further information, see City of Rockford Ordinance Sec. 19-32.
Anyone who feels threatened or intimidated should call the police as soon as possible.
1. Give a description of the panhandler.
2. Location of occurrence.
3. Time of occurrence.
4. Direction of travel.
5. Be willing to assist police with prosecution, if necessary.
The Police Department non-emergency number is 987-5800; the emergency number is 911; Web site is www.rockford.il.us/government/police.
From the Nov.8-14, 2006, issue