(Yi-Ke Peng/WOUB)

Police Chief: Don’t Be Fooled By ‘Panhandlers’

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For drivers in Athens, a sight is being seen more and more often on the roadways, according to city officials: men and women holding pieces of cardboard and other signs saying things like “please help” or “need money to get home.”

But Athens Police Department chief Tom Pyle advised the public in a recent newsletter: “..don’t be fooled.”

Oftentimes, panhandlers are masters at deception and are not at all what they claim to be,” Pyle wrote. “While some panhandlers claim to be homeless, out-of-work, out-of-gas, have sick or pregnant family members, etc., the truth is many are addicts fueling their drug and alcohol habits, or they are con artists scamming the public for money.”

Giving money to the individuals “mostly makes matters worse,” Pyle went on to say. He also said the drivers assume a liability while giving money at intersections, though he said there is no law that “outright bans” panhandling.

The police chief encouraged community members to search for homeless shelters and drug and alcohol counselors in Ohio to find alternative ways to help.

“The truth of the matter is, despite all that can be debated about panhandling, the biggest factor that attracts panhandlers to a community like ours is their success rate,” Pyle wrote.