Police urge caution amid uptick in panhandling problems

MANHEIM TOWNSHIP, Lancaster County, Pa. --- Police are seeing an uptick in panhandling incidents.

SGT. Michael Piacentio with the Manheim Township Police Department says the uptick is driven by motorist complaints near exit ramps and the entrances and exits of shopping center.

He said the majority of the complaints stem from negative interactions with panhandlers who are either "rude" or "forceful."

While he says they commonly see these issues during the holiday season, they're noticing a troubling trend.

“We are seeing the same people, over and over again and we are charging the same people, over and over again,” said SGT. Piacentino.

He said patrol officers are finding panhandlers with hundreds of dollars under false pretenses, or not necessarily in need.

“We’ve seen these people walk from their posts on a roadside or a shopping center and then get into a car and go to their house. We’ve seen all of these things…when we arrest them, they give a valid address,” said Piacentino.

For those in the giving spirit, Manheim Township Police are urging people to donate to charities or non-profit organizations such as Tabor Community Services in Lancaster.

Mike McKenna, president of Tabor Community services, says they primarily get connected with those without a home through "211."

The other method is through their street outreach teams, which work with first responders in finding people in legitimate need: living on the streets or in the woods.

“They’ll identify where that place is and then they’ll go and have a conversation with those individuals and encourage them to start seeking services. Then, they can start connecting to a number of other providers in the county who can help with any range of issues that that individual or family might be dealing with,” said McKenna.

McKenna said he believes their services can take a dollar donation further towards helping someone get back on their feet.

“Once people get into housing, we still have resources like the financial counseling services to keep people successful in that home,” said McKenna.

Piacentino said Manheim Township Police'S penalty for panhandling is an initial warning, followed by subsequent fines for repeat offenses.

If you're interested in learning more about Tabor Community Services, follow the link to their website here.

Other resources recommended by Manheim Township Police include the Community Action Partnership, the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness, and the Lancaster City Alliance.

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