The University Circle area has long been the cultural hub of Cleveland, and this has only been reinforced with the recent construction boom of institutions such the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Chipotle Mexican Grill. (Hey, it’s nice to have access to a burrito as well as some culture). This hub status brings lots of people to the area, which also means we are a center for panhandling activity.
The term panhandler is an American expression from the 1800s that referred to people who stuck their arms out, usually with a cup or pan their hands, to ask for money. (A little history with your safety tips). As of 2015, it is illegal in Cleveland to beg or ask for money, and there is a crime called aggressive solicitation for those who are especially persistent.
Not all but many of those who engage in panhandling activity would also qualify as homeless. I often tell people that if you are interested in helping the homeless in our city there are a number of organizations that could use your help, but giving money to a panhandler on the street is not the best way to do so.
The basic problem is that you don’t know who you are dealing with. We have had incidents in the past where a request for money has turned into a prelude to a robbery or assault. Not all but some of our area panhandlers struggle with mental health issues, which means you could be catching them on a good day or a bad day. So whipping out your wallet is usually not the best solution in these situations.
If you encounter a panhandler just try to disengage as swiftly as you can. If they persist get your cell phone and give CWRU PD a call at 216-368-3333—as mentioned, aggressive panhandling is a criminal offense that a suspect can be arrested or cited for. If you see someone else being targeted by an aggressive panhandler, give us a call.
Let’s show compassion for our fellow people, but let’s be smart about it as well. Let’s look out for each other.