Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Appendix A: Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to panhandling, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Enforcement Responses
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Prohibiting aggressive panhandlingSubjects the most offensive panhandlers to criminal penalties; reinforces informal rules of conduct among panhandlersthe law can survive legal challenge, and panhandlers are clearly informed of what constitutes legal vs. illegal conductEnforcement is difficult because few panhandlers are intentionally aggressive; officers should be properly trained to make aggressive panhandling charges
2Prohibiting panhandling in specified areas Restricts panhandling in areas where it is most likely to disrupt commerce and be intimidatingthe law can survive legal challenge, panhandlers are clearly informed of where they cannot panhandle, and enforcement is consistentCosts associated with properly posting areas where panhandling is prohibited
3Prohibiting interference with pedestrians or vehicles Restricts conduct that commonly disrupts commerce and intimidates pedestrians; deals directly with window washing by denying window washers access to motoriststhe law can survive legal challenge, and enforcement is consistentProving intent to interfere with pedestrians can be difficult
4Banning panhandlers from certain areas as a condition of probation Denies panhandlers access to areas where panhandling is profitablepanhandlers are clearly informed of where they cannot go, and police officers are informed of which panhandlers are banned from the areaRequires the cooperation of prosecutors, judges and probation officials
5Sentencing convicted panhandlers to appropriate community serviceTailors the punishment to the offense; makes the offender consider the impact panhandling has on the communitythe community service is meaningful and properly supervisedRequires the cooperation of prosecutors, judges and corrections officials
6Requiring panhandlers to obtain solicitation permits Discourages panhandling through procedural requirements that many panhandlers are unlikely to follow; allows for easier enforcement (no witnesses are required)police officers are informed of the permit requirement and consistently enforce itMay be viewed as unfair by the public; little is known about how effective this approach is
Public Education Responses
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
7Discouraging people from giving money to panhandlers, and encouraging them to give to charities that serve the needy Decreases the supply of money to panhandlers and, consequently, lowers the level of panhandlingthe message that adequate social services are available is credible, and the message is heavily promotedMay require new investments in social services to make the message credible; advertising and promoting the message incurs costs
8Using civilian patrols to monitor and discourage panhandling Increases the level of official monitoring and interventioncivilian patrollers are properly trained and supported by policeSalary, training and equipment costs
9Encouraging people to buy and give panhandlers vouchers, instead of money Restricts panhandlers' ability to buy alcohol and drugssupported by merchants and the communityStart-up and administrative costs for the program; a black market may allow panhandlers to convert vouchers to cash, undermining the program; people may not buy vouchers
Situational Responses
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
10Modifying the physical environment to discourage panhandlers from congregating in the area Discourages panhandlers from soliciting in an area by making it less comfortable to do soprivate (and public) property owners understand how the environment can contribute to panhandlingRequires property owners' cooperation; costs of making environmental changes; some risk that changes will also make the area less attractive for legitimate users
11Regulating alcohol sales to chronic inebriates who panhandle in the area Forces panhandlers to travel farther to buy alcohol, thereby potentially displacing them from the arealiquor license holders understand the rationale for liquor law enforcement, and enforcement is consistentWill not address panhandlers who are not chronic inebriates, including drug addicts
12Controlling window-washing materials Makes window washing (squeegeeing) more difficultproperty owners cooperate in efforts to control the use of the materialsCosts (usually modest) of modifying the environment or securing the materials
13Promoting legitimate uses of public places to displace panhandlers Discourages people from giving money to panhandlers by encouraging them to give to legitimate street solicitorspassersby approve of and support legitimate street solicitorsMay attract more people to an area, making it more attractive to panhandlers
Social Services/Treatment Response
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
14Providing adequate social services and substance abuse treatment to reduce panhandlers' need to panhandleRemoves panhandlers' excuses for panhandling; undermines the rationale for giving money to panhandlers; addresses the underlying problems that cause some people to panhandlethere are outreach efforts to identify and serve panhandlers who will benefit from social services, especially the most chronic offenders; substance-abuse treatment programs are sufficiently long term to be effective; panhandling enforcement is consistent, to motivate panhandlers to seek legitimate aid; and social services and police efforts are coordinatedMay require substantial new investments in social services if the community is lacking them
Response With Limited Effectiveness
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
15Enforcing laws that prohibit all panhandling Unlikely to survive legal challenge