What to do when you encounter panhandling
Panhandling is a common sight among some of Anchorage's busiest intersections.
"We're getting reports of them receiving four to five hundred dollars sometimes in a day," said Lt. Jack Carson, an officer with the Anchorage Police Department.
According to data collected by Anchorage Cares, an initiative to stop panhandling, in 2017 there were nearly 140 active panhandlers in the city. On average they made about 42 dollars a day, according to Bill Popp, president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation.
"That gave us the number of $2.1 million that is going out car windows or being handed out panhandlers on the streets," Popp said.
Popp says those millions of dollars could be going toward services like homeless shelters and substance abuse treatment centers, instead of issues our community is concerned about right now, like homeless camp life and drug and alcohol abuse.
"If they stop receiving money on these street corners, they will move on to something new," Lt. Carson said.
If someone asks you for money, Lt. Carson says you can simply tell them no and they will generally move on. He also says if you're walking by or are in your car, you can calmly go about your business and try to ignore them.
"Especially if you're in a vehicle driving by, they aren't going to spend much time on an individual, they want to hit as many people down that row of cars as they can," Lt. Carson said.
If someone starts to get aggressive, police say the best thing to do is say no and then walk away. But if you feel threatened, or there is a verbal altercation, get to a safe space and call police.
"If you be professional most of them are very courteous back but if you come out threatening, yelling or screaming, a lot of the time you get a like response back," said Lt. Carson.
According to municipal code, you can get a $60 citation if you offer someone money and they walk to your car into the road. The same citation can be given to the panhandler.
"We're actually enforcing panhandling at a higher rate than we have in many, many years now that our staffing is increased and we're writing more citations for it," added Lt. Carson.
If you want to help, there are other ways to give.
"Folks who are putting dollars into the hands of panhandlers have a very deep-seated charitable desire to help somebody who is down on their luck," Popp said.
The Anchorage Cares slogan is, "Give real change, not spare change." According to Popp, the public service announcement was a partnership with businesses like Brown Jug, the Holiday gas station stores, Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage Development Authority and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
You can donate to Anchorage Cares and the money will go toward local organizations that will help get people off the streets.
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