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The information provided above is only a generalized description of panhandling. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.
The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular panhandling problem, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
(Surveys of citizens and beat police officers will likely be necessary to gather information about complaints and complainants, as well as about donors. Most complaints about panhandling are not formally registered with police.)
Analyzing calls for service related to panhandling is important, but it can be time-consuming because, in many police agencies, such calls are classified under broad categories such as disturbance or suspicious person, categories that encompass a wide range of behavior. It might be worthwhile to develop more-specific call categories, so future problem analysis will be easier.
(Surveys of suspected panhandlers, data from agencies that serve the needy, and discussions with beat police officers can help you answer the following questions. This information can help you determine whether there are clusters of
panhandlers with similar characteristics. Different responses might be warranted for different types of panhandlers.)
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)
The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to panhandling:
Lankenau (1999) asserts that most panhandlers will likely turn to other illegitimate ways to make money, rather than find regular employment or enter treatment programs. Duneier (1999) states that some panhandlers see crime as one of the few viable alternatives to panhandling.
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