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Guide No.13 (2002)

by Michael S. Scott

The Problem of Panhandling

This guide addresses the problem of panhandling. It also covers nearly equivalent conduct in which, in exchange for donations, people perform nominal labor such as squeegeeing (cleaning) the windshields of cars stopped in traffic, holding car doors open, saving parking spaces, guarding parked cars, buying subway tokens, and carrying luggage or groceries.

† ”Panhandling,“ a common term in the United States, is more often referred to as ”begging“ elsewhere, or occasionally, as ”cadging.“ ”Panhandlers“ are variously referred to as ”beggars,“ ”vagrants,“ ”vagabonds,“ ”mendicants,“ or ”cadgers.“ The term ”panhandling“ derives either from the impression created by someone holding out his or her hand (as a pan's handle sticks out from the pan) or from the image of someone using a pan to collect money (as gold miners in the American West used pans to sift for gold).

The guide begins by describing the panhandling problem and reviewing factors that contribute to it. It then identifies a series of questions that might help you in analyzing your local problem. Finally, it reviews responses to the problem, and what is known about those responses from evaluative research and police practice.

Generally, there are two types of panhandling: passive and aggressive. Passive panhandling is soliciting without threat or menace, often without any words exchanged at all—just a cup or a hand held out. Aggressive panhandling is soliciting coercively, with actual or implied threats, or menacing actions. If a panhandler uses physical force or extremely aggressive actions, the panhandling may constitute robbery.

Isolated incidents of passive panhandling are usually a low police priority.1 In many jurisdictions, panhandling is not even illegal. Even where it is illegal, police usually tolerate passive panhandling, for both legal and practical reasons.2 Courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that passive panhandling is constitutionally protected activity. Police can reasonably conclude that, absent citizen complaints, their time is better spent addressing more serious problems. Whether panhandling and other forms of street disorder cause or contribute to more serious crime—the broken windows thesis—is hotly debated, but the debate is as yet unsettled.3 Panhandling becomes a higher police priority when it becomes aggressive or so pervasive that its cumulative effect, even when done passively, is to make passersby apprehensive.4 Panhandling is of greater concern to merchants who worry that their customers will be discouraged from patronizing their business. Merchants are most likely to call police when panhandling disrupts their commerce.5,

† Business owners who work on site are most likely to call police. Employees, especially younger employees, are less likely to do so because they have less at stake if panhandling disrupts business (Goldstein 1993).

Police must also be concerned with the welfare of panhandlers who are vulnerable to physical and verbal assault by other panhandlers, street robbers†† or passersby who react violently to being panhandled.6 Panhandlers often claim certain spots as their own territory, and disputes and fights over territory are not uncommon.7

†† In one study, 50 percent of panhandlers claimed to have been mugged within the past year (Goldstein 1993).

Broadly speaking, public policy perspectives on panhandling are of two types—the sympathetic view and the unsympathetic view. The sympathetic view, commonly but not unanimously held by civil libertarians and homeless advocates, is that panhandling is essential to destitute people's survival, and should not be regulated by police.8 Some even view panhandling as a poignant expression of the plight of the needy, and an opportunity for the more fortunate to help.9 The unsympathetic view is that panhandling is a blight that contributes to further community disorder and crime, as well as to panhandlers' degradation and deterioration as their underlying problems go unaddressed.10 Those holding this view believe panhandling should be heavily regulated by police.

People's opinions about panhandling are rooted in deeply held beliefs about individual liberty, public order and social
responsibility. Their opinions are also shaped by their actual exposure to panhandling—the more people are panhandled, the less sympathetic they are toward panhandlers.11 While begging is discouraged on most philosophical grounds and by most major religions, many people feel torn about whether to give money to panhandlers.12 Some people tolerate all sorts of street disorder, while others are genuinely frightened by it. This tension between opposing viewpoints will undoubtedly always exist. This guide takes a more neutral stance: without passing judgment on the degree of sympathy owed to panhandlers, it recognizes that police will always be under some pressure to control panhandling, and that there are effective and fair ways to do so.

Related Problems

Panhandling and its variants are only one form of disorderly street conduct and street crime about which police are
concerned. Other forms—not directly addressed in this guide—include:

Some of these other forms of disorderly street conduct may also be attributable to panhandlers, but this is not necessarily so. These problems overlap in various ways, and a local analysis of them will be necessary to understand how they do.

Factors Contributing to Panhandling

Understanding the factors that contribute to your panhandling problem will help you frame your own local analysis questions, determine good effectiveness measures, recognize key intervention points, and select appropriate responses.

Whether Panhandling Intimidates Passersby

Panhandling intimidates some people, even causing some to avoid areas where they believe they will be panhandled.13 Onethird of San Franciscans surveyed said they gave money to panhandlers because they felt pressured, and avoided certain areas because of panhandling; nearly 40 percent expressed concern for their safety around panhandlers.14 But most studies conclude that intentional aggressive panhandling is rare, largely because panhandlers realize that using aggression reduces their income, and is more likely to get them arrested or otherwise draw police attention to them.15

Whether panhandling intimidates passersby depends, of course, on how aggressive or menacing the panhandler is, but it also depends on the context in which panhandling occurs. In other words, an act of panhandling in one context might not be intimidating, but the same behavior in a different context might.16 Among the contextual factors that influence how intimidating panhandling is are:

Who the Panhandlers Are

Typically, relatively few panhandlers account for most complaints to police about panhandling.18 The typical profile of a panhandler that emerges from a number of studies is that of an unemployed, unmarried male in his 30s or 40s, with substance abuse problems, few family ties, a high school education, and laborer's skills.19 Some observers have noted that younger people—many of whom are runaways or otherwise transient—are turning to panhandling.20, A high percentage of panhandlers in U.S. urban areas are African-American.21 Some panhandlers suffer from mental illness, but most do not.22 Many panhandlers have criminal records, but panhandlers are nearly as likely to have been crime victims as offenders.23 Some are transient, but most have been in their community for a long time.24

† In many less-developed countries, children commonly beg to support themselves and their families, a phenomenon less common in the United States and other more highly developed countries.

Contrary to common belief, panhandlers and homeless people are not necessarily one and the same. Many studies have found that only a small percentage of homeless people panhandle, and only a small percentage of panhandlers are homeless.26,††

†† Definitions of homelessness vary, but at a minimum, most studies have found that few panhandlers routinely sleep outdoors at night. See, however, Burke (1998) for evidence that a high percentage of the panhandlers in Leicester, England, have been homeless.

Most studies conclude that panhandlers make rational economic choices—that is, they look to make money in the most efficient way possible.27 Panhandlers develop their ”sales pitches,“ and sometimes compete with one another for the rights to a particular sales pitch.28 Their sales pitches are usually, though not always, fraudulent in some respect. Some panhandlers will admit to passersby that they want money to buy alcohol (hoping candor will win them favor), though few will admit they intend to buy illegal drugs.29 Many panhandlers make it a habit to always be polite and appreciative, even when they are refused. Given the frequent hostility they experience, maintaining their composure can be a remarkable psychological feat.30 Panhandlers usually give some consideration to their physical appearance: they must balance looking needy against looking too offensive or threatening.31

† Ninety percent of San Franciscans surveyed reported having been panhandled within the past year (Kelling and Coles 1996).

Most panhandlers are not interested in regular employment, particularly not minimum-wage labor, which many believe would scarcely be more profitable than panhandling.32 Some panhandlers' refusal to look for regular employment is better explained by their unwillingness or inability to commit to regular work hours, often because of substance abuse problems. Some panhandlers buy food with the money they receive, because they dislike the food served in shelters and soup kitchens.33

Who Gets Panhandled and Who Gives Money to Panhandlers

In some communities, nearly everyone who routinely uses public places has been panhandled. Many who get panhandled are themselves people of modest means. Wealthy citizens can more readily avoid public places where panhandling occurs, whether consciously, to avoid the nuisances of the street, or merely because their lifestyles do not expose them to public places. Estimates of the percentage of people who report that they give money to panhandlers range from 10 to 60 percent.34 The percentage of college students who do so (between 50 and 60 percent) tends to be higher than that of the general population. There is some evidence that women and minorities tend to give more freely to panhandlers.35 Male-female couples are attractive targets for panhandlers because the male is likely to want to appear compassionate in front of the female.36 Panhandlers more commonly target women than men,37 but some find that lone women are not suitable targets because they are more likely to fear having their purses snatched should they open them to get change.38 Conventioneers and tourists are good targets for panhandlers because they are already psychologically prepared to spend money.39 Diners and grocery shoppers are good targets because dining and grocery shopping remind them of the contrast between their relative wealth and panhandlers' apparent poverty. Regular panhandlers try to cultivate regular donors; some even become acquaintances, if not friends.

Where and When Panhandling Commonly Occurs

Panhandlers need to go where the money is. In other words, they need to panhandle in communities and specific locations where the opportunities to collect money are best—where there are a lot of pedestrians or motorists, especially those who are most likely to have money and to give it.40 Panhandling is more common in communities that provide a high level of social services to the needy, because the same citizens who support social services are also likely to give money directly to panhandlers; panhandlers are drawn to communities where both free social services and generous passersby are plentiful.41 With respect to specific locations, panhandlers prefer to panhandle where passersby cannot readily avoid them, although doing so can make passersby feel more intimidated.42

Among the more common, specific panhandling locations are the following:

There are typically daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal patterns to panhandling; that is, panhandling levels often follow fairly predictable cycles, which vary from community to community. For example, panhandling may increase during winter months in warm-climate communities as transients migrate there from cold-weather regions. Panhandling levels often drop around the dates government benefits are distributed, because those panhandlers who receive benefits have the money they need. Once that money runs out, they resume panhandling.44 Panhandling on or near college campuses often follows the cycles of students' going to and coming from classes.45 There are usually daily lulls in panhandling when those panhandlers who are chronic inebriates or drug addicts go off to drink or take drugs. Regular panhandlers keep fairly routine schedules, typically panhandling for four to six hours a day.46

Economics of Panhandling

Most evidence confirms that panhandling is not lucrative, although some panhandlers clearly are able to subsist on a combination of panhandling money, government benefits, private charity, and money from odd jobs such as selling scavenged materials or plasma.47 How much money a panhandler can make varies depending on his or her skill and personal appeal, as well as on the area in which he or she solicits. Estimates vary from a couple of dollars (U.S.) a day on the low end, to $20 to $50 a day in the mid-range, to about $300 a day on the high end.48 Women—especially those who have children with them—and panhandlers who appear to be disabled tend to receive more money.49 For this reason, some panhandlers pretend to be disabled and/or war veterans. Others use pets as a means of evoking sympathy from passersby. Panhandlers' regular donors can account for up to half their receipts.50

Panhandlers spend much of their money on alcohol, drugs and tobacco, although some money does go toward food, transportation and toiletries.51 Panhandlers rarely save any money, partly because they risk having it stolen, and partly because their primary purpose is to immediately buy alcohol or drugs.52

Economic, Social and Legal Factors That Influence Panhandling Levels

Broad economic, social and legal factors influence the overall level of panhandling, as well as community tolerance of it.53 Tolerance levels appear to have declined significantly during the 1990s, at least in the United States, leading to increased pressure on police to control panhandling.

The state of the economy, at the local, regional and even national level, affects how much panhandling occurs. As the economy declines, panhandling increases. As government benefit programs become more restrictive, panhandling increases.54 At least as important as economic factors, if not more so, are social factors. The stronger the social bonds and social network on which indigent people can rely for emotional and financial support, the less likely they are to panhandle.55 Thus, the weakening of social bonds throughout society affects the indigent most negatively. As substance abuse levels rise in society, as, for example, during the crack epidemic, so too do panhandling levels. As the skid rows in urban centers are redeveloped, the indigent people who live there move to areas where their panhandling is less tolerated. As people with mental illnesses are increasingly released into the community, often without adequate follow-up care, panhandling also increases. Where there are inadequate detoxification and substance-abuse treatment facilities, panhandling is high.56 As courts strike down laws that
authorize police to regulate public disorder, and as police are less inclined to enforce such laws, panhandling flourishes.57 Arrest and incarceration rates may also affect panhandling levels: convicted offenders often have difficulty getting jobs after release, and some inevitably turn to panhandling.58

Understanding Your Local Problem

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.

Asking the Right Questions

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.

Complainants and Donors

(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.)


(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.)


Current Response

Measuring Your Effectiveness

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:

Responses to the Problem of Panhandling

Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider possible responses to address the problem.

The following response strategies provide a foundation of ideas for addressing your particular problem. These strategies are drawn from a variety of research studies and police reports. Several of these strategies may apply to your community's problem. 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. Do not limit yourself to considering what police can do: give careful consideration to who else in your community shares responsibility for the problem and can help police better respond to it.

General Considerations for an Effective Response Strategy

Most researchers and practitioners seem to agree that the enforcement of laws prohibiting panhandling plays only a part in controlling the problem.59 Public education to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers, informal social control and adequate social services (especially alcohol and drug treatment) for panhandlers are the other essential components of an effective and comprehensive response.

Panhandling, like many other forms of street disorder, is controlled more through informal means than through formal enforcement. Panhandlers, merchants, passersby, social workers, and police beat officers form an intricate social network of mutual support and regulation. They all have something to gain by cooperating with one another (and, consequently, to lose by not cooperating with one another). Panhandlers obviously gain money, food and some social interaction from their activity; they risk losing them if they act too disorderly. Merchants will usually tolerate some panhandling, though seldom directly in front of their businesses. Some merchants even give panhandlers food or hire them to do odd jobs such as wash store windows. Passersby gain freedom from the harassment and intimidation of persistent and menacing panhandlers, along with the positive feelings they experience from truly voluntary charity. Social workers are more likely to be able to help those street people who are not frequently arrested for panhandling. Police beat officers can cultivate panhandlers as informants, helping the officers stay current with what is happening on the street.

† Goldstein's (1993) study of panhandling in New Haven, Conn., provides an excellent example of how panhandling is controlled through informal means. Duneier's (1999) study of New York City street vendors, scavengers and panhandlers also provides an exceptional example of informal social control on the street.

Enforcement Responses

Whether or not you emphasize enforcement of laws that regulate panhandling, it is important that the laws be able to survive legal challenge. Police should have valid enforcement authority to bolster other responses they use, including issuing warnings to panhandlers.60 Laws that prohibit aggressive panhandling or panhandling in specified areas are more likely to survive legal challenge than those that prohibit all panhandling. If enforcement of panhandling laws will be a key component of your strategy, and if you think the panhandling laws you rely on are vulnerable to legal challenge (or if you want to draft a new panhandling law), you should consult legal counsel to help you draft and propose new legislation. There are a number of model panhandling ordinances61 and legal commentaries on the constitutionality of panhandling laws62 in the literature. See Appendix A for a list and brief summary of some of the leading cases on the constitutionality of panhandling and laws that regulate it.

Warning panhandlers and ordering them to ”move along“ are perhaps the most common police responses to panhandling.63 Many police beat officers develop working relationships with regular panhandlers; they use a mix of formal and informal approaches to keeping panhandling under control.64 Most officers do not view panhandling as a serious matter, and are reluctant to devote the time necessary to arrest and book offenders.65 Moreover, even when they have the authority to issue citations and release the offenders, most officers realize that panhandlers are unlikely to either appear in court or pay a fine.66 Prosecutors are equally unlikely to prosecute panhandling cases, typically viewing them as an unwise use of scarce prosecutorial resources.67

Panhandler arrests are rare,68, but when they occur, this is the typical scenario: An officer issues a panhandler a summons or citation that sets a court date or specifies a fine. The panhandler fails to appear in court or fails to pay the fine. A warrant is issued for the panhandler's arrest. The police later arrest the panhandler after running a warrant check during a subsequent encounter. The panhandler is incarcerated for no more than a couple of days, sentenced to time already served by the court, and released.69

† Goldstein (1993) estimated that police made arrests for panhandling in only about 1 percent of all policepanhandler encounters.

Because prosecutors and judges are unlikely to view isolated panhandling cases as serious matters, it is advisable to prepare and present to the court some background information on panhandling's overall impact on the community. A problemimpact statement can help prosecutors and judges understand the overall negative effect the seemingly minor offense of panhandling is having on the community.70 In the United Kingdom, police can apply to the courts for an ”antisocial behavior order“ against individuals or groups as one means of controlling their persistent low-level offending.71 Violations of the orders can result in relatively severe jail sentences. It is unknown how effective the orders have been in controlling panhandling.

† British antisocial behavior orders are similar in some respects to American restraining and nuisance abatement orders.

  1. Prohibiting aggressive panhandling. Laws that prohibit aggressive panhandling are more likely to survive legal challenge than laws that prohibit all panhandling, and are therefore to be encouraged.72 A growing number of jurisdictions have enacted aggressive-panhandling laws, most within the past 10 years.†† Enforcing aggressive-panhandling laws can be difficult, partly because few panhandlers behave aggressively, and partly because many victims of aggressive panhandling do not report the offense to police or are unwilling to file a complaint. Police can use proactive enforcement methods such as having officers serve as decoys, giving panhandlers the opportunity to panhandle them aggressively.73 Some agencies have provided officers with special legal training before enforcing aggressive-panhandling laws.74 Enforcing other laws panhandlers commonly violate—those regarding drinking in public, trespassing, disorderly conduct, etc.—can help control some aspects of the panhandling problem.

    †† Among the jurisdictions to have enacted aggressive-panhandling laws are the states of Hawaii and California, and the cities of San Francisco; Seattle; Minneapolis; Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Cincinnati; Dallas; Tulsa, Okla.; and Washington, D.C.

    Police need not heavily enforce aggressive-panhandling laws in order to control panhandling; the informal norms among most panhandlers discourage aggressive panhandling anyway.75 Panhandlers exercise some influence over one another's behavior, to minimize complaints and keep police from intervening.76 Enforcing aggressive-panhandling laws can serve to reinforce the informal norms because aggressive panhandling by the few makes panhandling less profitable for others.77

    Aggressive-panhandling laws typically include the following specific prohibitions:

    • confronting someone in a way that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm;
    • touching someone without his or her consent;
    • continuing to panhandle or follow someone after he or she has refused to give money;
    • intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe passage of a person or vehicle;
    • using obscene or abusive language toward someone while attempting to panhandle him or her; and
    • acting with intent to intimidate someone into giving money.78
  2. Prohibiting panhandling in specified areas. Many courts have held that laws can restrict where panhandling occurs. Panhandlers are increasingly being prohibited from panhandling:
    • near ATMs;
    • on public transportation vehicles and near stations and stops;
    • near business entrances/exits;
    • on private property, if posted by the owner; and
    • on public beaches and boardwalks.79

    One legal commentator has proposed a novel approach to regulating panhandling: zoning laws that would strictly prohibit panhandling in some areas, allow limited panhandling in other areas, and allow almost all panhandling in yet other areas.80 The literature does not report any jurisdiction that has adopted this approach as a matter of law, though clearly, police officers informally vary their enforcement depending on community tolerance levels in different parts of their jurisdiction.

  3. Prohibiting interference with pedestrians or vehicles. Some jurisdictions have enacted laws that specifically prohibit impeding pedestrians' ability to walk either by standing or by lying down in the way. Enforcement can be difficult where such laws require police to establish the panhandler's intent to obstruct others. The city of Seattle drafted a law that eliminated the need to establish intent, and that law survived a legal challenge.81 Where panhandling occurs on roads, as car window-washing usually does, enforcing laws that prohibit interfering with motor vehicle traffic can help control the problem.82
  4. Banning panhandlers from certain areas as a condition of probation. Because panhandling's viability depends so heavily on good locations, banning troublesome panhandlers from those locations as a condition of probation, at least temporarily, might serve to discourage them from panhandling and, perhaps, compel them to consider legitimate employment or substance abuse treatment.83 Convicted panhandlers might also be temporarily banned from publicly funded shelters.84 Alternatively, courts could use civil injunctions and restraining orders to control chronic panhandlers' conduct, although actual use of this approach does not appear in the literature.85 Obviously, police will require prosecutors' endorsements and judicial approval to advance these sorts of responses.
  5. Sentencing convicted panhandlers to appropriate community service. Some jurisdictions have made wide use of community service sentences tailored to the particular offender and offense.86 For example, officers in St. Louis asked courts to sentence chronic panhandlers to community service cleaning the streets, sidewalks and alleys in the area where they panhandled.87
  6. Requiring panhandlers to obtain solicitation permits. Some cities, including Wilmington, Del., and New Orleans, have at some time required panhandlers and window washers to obtain solicitation permits, just as permits are required from street vendors and others who solicit money in public.88, Little is known about the effectiveness of such permit schemes.

† Licensing schemes for beggars reportedly have existed in England as far back as 1530 (Teir 1993)[Full Text]. The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (1994) has published guidance on drafting laws enabling permit systems, though the language seems designed to inhibit panhandling, rather than allow it.

Public Education Responses

  1. Discouraging people from giving money to panhandlers, and encouraging them to give to charities that serve the needy. In all likelihood, if people stopped giving money to panhandlers, panhandling would cease.89 Public education campaigns are intended to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers. They typically offer three main arguments: 1) panhandlers usually use the money to buy alcohol and drugs, rather than goods and services that will improve their condition; 2) giving panhandlers small amounts of money is insufficient to address the underlying circumstances that cause them to panhandle; and 3) social services are available to meet panhandlers' food, clothing, shelter, health care, and employment needs. Some people do not understand the relationship between panhandling and substance abuse, or are unaware of available social services, however obvious these factors may seem to police.90 Public education messages have been conveyed via posters, pamphlets, movie trailers, and charity collection points.91 A poster campaign was an important element of the New York City Transit Authority's effort to control subway panhandling.92 In Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., special parking meters were used as collection points for charities that serve the needy.93 Some police officers have invested a lot of their own time making personal appeals to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers.94 Some cities, such as Evanston, Ill., have hired trained civilians to make such appeals.95 Not everyone will be persuaded by the appeals; some will undoubtedly perceive them as uncaring.
  2. Using civilian patrols to monitor and discourage panhandling. In Baltimore, a business improvement district group hired police-trained, uniformed, unarmed civilian public-safety guides to intervene in low-level disorder incidents, and to radio police if their warnings were not heeded.96 Portland, Ore., developed a similar program,97 as did Evanston.98
  3. Encouraging people to buy and give panhandlers vouchers, instead of money. Some communities have instituted programs whereby people can buy and give panhandlers vouchers redeemable for food, shelter, transportation, or other necessities, but not for alcohol or tobacco. Typically, a private nonprofit organization prints and sells the vouchers and serves as the broker between buyers and merchants. Some vouchers are printed in a way that makes them difficult to counterfeit. Vouchers are often accompanied with printed information about where they can be redeemed and what social services are available to the needy. Window signs and flyers are commonly used to advertise voucher programs. There is some risk, however, that panhandlers will exchange the vouchers for money through a black market,99 or that few people will buy the vouchers, as has been reported in some jurisdictions.100

    † The earliest reported program was in Los Angeles. Other cities where voucher programs have been instituted include Berkeley, Santa Cruz and San Francisco, Calif.; Nashville; Memphis; New Haven; Portland, Ore.; Chicago; Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; New York; and Edmonton, Alberta (Ellickson 1996; New York Times 1993; Wall Street Journal 1993). Some communities have considered and rejected voucher programs (Evanston Police Department 1995).[Full Text]

Situational Responses

  1. Modifying the physical environment to discourage panhandlers from congregating in the area. Among the environmental features conducive to or facilitating panhandling are the following: access to water (for drinking, bathing and filling buckets for window washing); restrooms; unsecured garbage dumpsters (for scavenging food and sellable materials); and places to sit or lie down, protected from the elements. These physical features can be modified to discourage panhandling.101 Police in Santa Ana, Calif., as part of a larger effort to control aggressive panhandling, persuaded business owners to modify many physical features of their property, to make it less attractive to panhandlers, without inconveniencing customers.102 A number of police efforts to address broader problems related to transient encampments—problems that included panhandling—entailed removing the transients from the encampments and referring them to social service agencies.103
  2. Regulating alcohol sales to chronic inebriates who panhandle in the area. Because many panhandlers are chronic inebriates, and because they spend so much of their panhandling money on alcohol, enforcing laws that prohibit alcohol sales to intoxicated people or chronic inebriates is one means of discouraging panhandling in the area. Several police agencies have reported using this approach in their efforts to control panhandling and other problems related to chronic inebriates.104 Alternatively, merchants might be persuaded to change their sales practices to discourage panhandlers from shopping at their stores (e.g., by eliminating such products as fortified wine or not selling single containers of beer).
  3. Controlling window-washing materials. Several police agencies have reported on ways to control how squeegee men/panhandlers acquire, store and use window-washing materials. Santa Ana police asked nearby businesses to remove an outdoor water fountain that squeegee men were using to fill their buckets.105 Vancouver, British Columbia, police discovered where squeegee men stored their buckets and squeegees, and had property owners secure the storage places. They also had gas station owners engrave their squeegee equipment with identifying marks to deter theft by panhandlers.106
  4. Promoting legitimate uses of public places to displace panhandlers. Police in Staffordshire, England, encouraged the municipal authority to promote street musicians in public places where panhandlers abounded, as one means to discourage panhandlers from begging in the area.107 The underlying logic was that passersby would likely notice the distinction between those who solicit money in exchange for something pleasant, and those who panhandle but offer nothing in return. Passersby would theoretically be less inclined to give money to panhandlers, thereby discouraging panhandling. Similarly, the New York/New Jersey Port Authority promoted new and attractive businesses in the Manhattan bus terminal as part of a larger strategy to reduce crime and disorder, including panhandling. Complaints about panhandling in the terminal declined by one-third over a four-year period.108

Social Services/Treatment Response

  1. Providing adequate social services and substance abuse treatment to reduce panhandlers' need to panhandle. To address some of the underlying problems of many panhandlers (e.g., substance abuse, lack of marketable skills, mental illness, inadequate housing), police may need to advocate new social services, or help coordinate existing services.109 Police can be and have long been instrumental in advocating and coordinating social services for panhandlers, and in referring people to those services.110 Fontana, Calif., police coordinated a highly successful program that provided panhandlers and other transients with a wide range of health care, food, job training, and housing placement services. They offered treatment as an alternative to enforcement; they enforced laws regulating street disorder, including panhandling, and transported those willing to accept treatment to the social service center.111 New York/New Jersey Port Authority police did likewise in helping to control panhandling and other forms of crime and disorder in the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City.112

    Short-term substance-abuse treatment programs, however, are not likely to be effective for most panhandlers—their addictions are too strong—and most who participate in short-term programs quickly revert to their old habits.113 Unfortunately, long-term programs cost more than most communities are willing to spend. Police could advocate the most chronic offenders' being given priority for long-term treatment programs, or the courts could mandate such programs.114 Some social service outreach efforts target those people identified as causing the most problems for the community.115 In Madison, Wis., detoxification workers even took to the streets to proactively monitor the conduct of their most difficult clients. Some panhandlers will, of course, refuse social service and treatment offers because they are unwilling to make the lifestyle changes usually required to stay in the programs.116

Response With Limited Effectiveness

  1. Enforcing laws that prohibit all panhandling. Many laws that prohibit all panhandling were written long ago and are vaguely and broadly worded: consequently, they are unlikely to survive a legal challenge. About half of the states and over a third of major cities in America have laws that prohibit all or some forms of panhandling.117

    † See Teir (1993)[Full Text] for a discussion of the long history of laws prohibiting and regulating begging.

Selected Court Cases on Panhandling

The following are some notable U.S. court cases addressing the constitutionality of panhandling and laws that regulate it. You should consult local legal counsel to determine the state of the law in your jurisdiction.

Berkeley Community Health Project v. Berkeley, 902 F. Supp. 1084 (N.D. Cal. 1995) and 966 F. Supp. 941 (N.D. Cal. 1997). Struck down an ordinance that, among other restrictions, banned begging at night. The city subsequently deleted that provision from the ordinance, leaving only an ATM restriction intact.

Blair v. Shanahan, 775 F. Supp. 1315 (N.D. Cal. 1991). Struck down a ban on accosting people to beg. The decision was subsequently vacated, 919 F. Supp. 1361 (N.D. Cal. 1996).

C.C.B. v. State, 458 So. 2d 47 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984). Struck down a total ban on begging in public.

Carreras v. City of Anaheim, 768 F. 2d 1039, 1046 (9th Cir. 1985). Held that the California Constitution is broader than the U.S. Constitution in protecting speech; struck down begging ordinances.

Chad v. Fort Lauderdale, 861 F. Supp. 1057 (S.D. Fla. 1994). Upheld a ban on begging on the beach and boardwalk.

City of Seattle v. Webster, 802 P. 2d 1333 (Wash. 1990), cert. denied, 111 S. Ct. 1690 (1991). Upheld an ordinance banning sidewalk obstruction.

Doucette v. Santa Monica, 995 F. Supp. 1192 (C.D. Cal. 1996). Upheld time, place and manner restrictions on begging.

Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless v. City of Cincinnati, 56 F. 3d 710, 714 (6th Cir. 1995). Cites evidence that the enforcement of an anti-begging ordinance reduced the incidence of begging.

Loper v. New York City Police Department, 999 F. 2d 699 (2d Cir. 1993). Struck down a ban on loitering for the purposes of begging on city streets.

Los Angeles Alliance for Survival v. City of Los Angeles, 157 F. 3d 1162 (9th Cir. 1998). Struck down an aggressive-begging ordinance. The California Supreme Court subsequently overturned the lower court's ruling on the constitutionality of the ordinance, sending the case back to the federal district court.

State ex rel. Williams v. City Court of Tucson, 520 P. 2d 1166 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1974). Upheld a loitering-for-the-purpose-of-begging ordinance.

Ulmer v. Municipal Court for Oakland-Piedmont Judicial District, 55 Cal. App. 3d 263, 127 Cal. Rpt. 445 (1976). Upheld a ban on begging that was later struck down by the Blair court.

Young v. New York City Transit Authority, 903 F. 2d 146 (2d Cir. 1990). Upheld a ban on begging in the subway.

Additional Resources

Abstracts of publications that have appeared since this guide was written

Buddy, can you spare a dime? Homelessness, panhandling, and the public. Lee, B.A., and C.R. Farrell (2003). Urban Affairs Review, 38(3): 299-324.

This study examines the practice of panhandling among the homeless and the public's response to it. Data were obtained from two national surveys: the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (Burt et al., 1999), and a Columbia University survey of U.S. residents regarding their reactions to and encounters with panhandling (Link et al., 1994). A comparison of homeless panhandlers and non-panhandlers shows the former group to be more isolated, troubled, and disadvantaged than the latter. Although only a minority of homeless say that they panhandle, a majority of domiciled individuals report being the objects of panhandling, and most give money occasionally. Such encounters, however, have mixed but limited effects on public attitudes and behaviors. Nonetheless, these findings challenge the notion that panhandling constitutes an especially threatening feature of urban life, signaling a possible mismatch between public opinion and policy. The most promising policy responses to panhandling, therefore, would appear to involve steps that increase income; although any policy intervention in this area would also benefit from stronger empirical grounding and less reliance on assumptions and stereotypes about panhandling.

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
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Prohibiting aggressive panhandling Subjects the most offensive panhandlers to criminal penalties; reinforces informal rules of conduct among panhandlers …the law can survive legal challenge, and panhandlers are clearly informed of what constitutes legal vs. illegal conduct Enforcement is difficult because few panhandlers are intentionally aggressive; officers should be properly trained to make aggressive panhandling charges
2 Prohibiting panhandling in specified areas Restricts panhandling in areas where it is most likely to disrupt commerce and be intimidating …the law can survive legal challenge, panhandlers are clearly informed of where they cannot panhandle, and enforcement is consistent Costs associated with properly posting areas where panhandling is prohibited
3 Prohibiting 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 motorists …the law can survive legal challenge, and enforcement is consistent Proving intent to interfere with pedestrians can be difficult
4 Banning panhandlers from certain areas as a condition of probation Denies panhandlers access to areas where panhandling is profitable …panhandlers are clearly informed of where they cannot go, and police officers are informed of which panhandlers are banned from the area Requires the cooperation of prosecutors, judges and probation officials
5 Sentencing convicted panhandlers to appropriate community service Tailors the punishment to the offense; makes the offender consider the impact panhandling has on the community …the community service is meaningful and properly supervised Requires the cooperation of prosecutors, judges and corrections officials
6 Requiring 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 it May be viewed as unfair by the public; little is known about how effective this approach is
Public Education Responses
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
7 Discouraging 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 panhandling …the message that adequate social services are available is credible, and the message is heavily promoted May require new investments in social services to make the message credible; advertising and promoting the message incurs costs
8 Using civilian patrols to monitor and discourage panhandling Increases the level of official monitoring and intervention …civilian patrollers are properly trained and supported by police Salary, training and equipment costs
9 Encouraging people to buy and give panhandlers vouchers, instead of money Restricts panhandlers' ability to buy alcohol and drugs …supported by merchants and the community Start-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
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
10 Modifying 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 so …private (and public) property owners understand how the environment can contribute to panhandling Requires property owners' cooperation; costs of making environmental changes; some risk that changes will also make the area less attractive for legitimate users
11 Regulating alcohol sales to chronic inebriates who panhandle in the area Forces panhandlers to travel farther to buy alcohol, thereby potentially displacing them from the area …liquor license holders understand the rationale for liquor law enforcement, and enforcement is consistent Will not address panhandlers who are not chronic inebriates, including drug addicts
12 Controlling window-washing materials Makes window washing (squeegeeing) more difficult …property owners cooperate in efforts to control the use of the materials Costs (usually modest) of modifying the environment or securing the materials
13 Promoting legitimate uses of public places to displace panhandlers Discourages people from giving money to panhandlers by encouraging them to give to legitimate street solicitors …passersby approve of and support legitimate street solicitors May attract more people to an area, making it more attractive to panhandlers
Social Services/Treatment Response
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
14 Providing adequate social services and substance abuse treatment to reduce panhandlers' need to panhandle Removes panhandlers' excuses for panhandling; undermines the rationale for giving money to panhandlers; addresses the underlying problems that cause some people to panhandle …there 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 coordinated May require substantial new investments in social services if the community is lacking them
Response With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
15 Enforcing laws that prohibit all panhandling     Unlikely to survive legal challenge


[1] Cosgrove and Grant (1997).

[2] Burke (2000).

[3] Kelling and Coles (1996, 1994); Kozlowski (1999); Leoussis (1995) [Full Text]; Harcourt (1998) [Full Text];
Skogan (1990).

[4] Kelling and Coles (1996, 1994); Ellickson (1996); Vancouver Police Department (1999) [Full Text];
Fontana Police Department (1998).[Full Text]

[5] Cosgrove and Grant (1997); Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993); Fontana Police Department (1998) [Full Text]; Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[6] Burke (1998); Goldstein (1993); Teir (1993) [Full Text]; Lankenau (1999); St. Petersburg Police
Department (1997) [Full Text]; Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[7] Goldstein (1993); Vancouver Police Department (1999).[Full Text]

[8] See Ammann (2000) [Full Text]; Barta (1999) [Abstract only]; Burns (1992) [Full Text]; Hershkoff position in Hershkoff and Conner (1993) [Full Text]; Lankenau (1999); Munzer (1997); Harcourt (1998) [Full Text].

[9] Munzer (1997).

[10] See Kelling and Coles (1996); Ellickson (1996); Burke (2000); Teir (1998, 1993) [Full Text][Full Text]; Conner
position in Hershkoff and Conner (1993) [Full Text]; Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (1994).

[11] Wilson (1991).

[12] Ellickson (1996).

[13] Kelling and Coles (1996); Ellickson (1996).

[14] Kelling and Coles (1996).

[15] Burke (2000); Lankenau (1999).

[16] Kelling and Coles (1996, 1994); Kelling (1999) [Full Text].

[17] Goldstein (1993).

[18] Ellickson (1996); Goldstein (1993); University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of
Police and Security (1997) [Full Text]; St. Petersburg Police Department (1997) [Full Text]; Alexandria Police Department (1995) [Full Text]; Evanston Police Department (1995) [Full Text]; Sampson and Scott (2000) (Fort Pierce, Fla., case study) [Full Text]; Higdon and Huber (1987) (Dundalk project); Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[19] Burke (1998); Stark (1992); Lankenau (1999); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993); Evanston
Police Department (1995, n.d.) [Full Text]; Goldstein (1993); Santa Ana Police Department (1993);[Full Text]
Chicago Tribune (1994); Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[20] Burke (1998).

[21] Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993); Evanston Police
Department (1995) [Full Text]; Duneier (1999).

[22] Goldstein (1993); Cosgrove and Grant (1997); Ellickson (1996); Burke (1998); Luckenbach
and Acosta (1993).

[23] Goldstein (1993); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993); New York City Police Department
(1994); St. Petersburg Police Department (1997) [Full Text]; Chicago Tribune (1994); Evanston Police
Department (n.d.); Higdon and Huber (1987) (Dundalk project); Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[24] Goldstein (1993); St. Petersburg Police Department (1997) [Full Text]; University of Wisconsin-
Madison Department of Police and Security (1997).[Full Text]

[25] Ellickson (1996); Stark (1992); Goldstein (1993).

[26] Ellickson (1996); Teir (1998) [Full Text]; Goldstein (1993); Fontana Police Department (1998) [Full Text];
Chicago Tribune (1994); Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[27] Stark (1992).

[28] Burke (1998); Lankenau (1999).

[29] Stark (1992).

[30] Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993).

[31] Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993).

[32] Goldstein (1993); Ellickson (1996).

[33] Goldstein (1993); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993).

[34] Ellickson (1996); Kelling and Coles (1996); Butterfield (1988).

[35] Burns (1992).[Full Text]

[36] Stark (1992).

[37] Wilson (1991).

[38] Stark (1992).

[39] Stark (1992); St. Petersburg Police Department (1997).[Full Text]

[40] Ellickson (1996); Burke (1998); Stark (1992); Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993); Duneier

[41] Ellickson (1996); Fontana Police Department (1998) [Full Text]; University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Police and Security (1997) [Full Text]; Santa Ana Police Department (1993).[Full Text]

[42] Leoussis (1995) [Full Text].

[43] Stark (1992); Seattle Police Department (2000); Sampson and Scott (2000) (Fort Pierce
case study). [Full Text]

[44] Goldstein (1993).

[45] University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Police and Security (1997).[Full Text]

[46] Goldstein (1993).

[47] Goldstein (1993); Burke (1998); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993); Evanston Police
Department (n.d.); Ellickson (1996); Stark (1992); Duneier (1999).

[48] Ellickson (1996); Mabry (1994) [Full Text]; Goldstein (1993); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993);
Manning (2000) [Full Text]; Duneier (1999).

[49] Burns (1992).[Full Text]

[50] Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993).

[51] Burke (1998); Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993).

[52] Stark (1992); Goldstein (1993).

[53] Burke (1998); Ellickson (1996).

[54] Burke (1998).

[55] Ellickson (1996).

[56] Stark (1992).

[57] Kelling and Coles (1996, 1994); Teir (1993).[Full Text]

[58] Ellickson (1996).

[59] Goldstein (1993); Cosgrove and Grant (1997); Ellickson (1996); Evanston Police Department (1995).[Full Text]

[60] Ellickson (1996); Goldstein (1993).

[61] Teir (1993) [Full Text]; Center for the Community Interest (1996) [Full Text]; Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (1994).

[62] Kelling and Coles (1996); Barta (1999) [Abstract only]; Ellickson (1996); Delmonico (1996) [Full Text]; Kozlowski (1999); Leoussis (1995) [Full Text]; Mabry (1994) [Full Text]; Mitchell (1994); Nichols (1997) [Full Text]; Teir (1998, 1993) [Full Text][Full Text]; Walston (1999); Hershkoff and Conner (1993) [Full Text]; Munzer (1997).

[63] Leoussis (1995).[Full Text]

[64] Kelling and Coles (1996); Ellickson (1996).

[65] Goldstein (1993).

[66] Santa Ana Police Department (1993) [Full Text]; Little (1992).

[67] Cosgrove and Grant (1997); Goldstein (1993).

[68] New York City Police Department (1994); Cosgrove and Grant (1997); Ellickson (1996); Burke (1998); Leoussis (1995) [Full Text]; Teir (1993) [Full Text]; Goldstein (1993).

[69] Ammann (2000).[Full Text]

[70] St. Petersburg Police Department (1997) [Full Text]; Vancouver Police Department (1999) [Full Text]; Higdon and Huber (1987) (Dundalk project); Savannah Police Department (1995).[Full Text]

[71] Bland and Read (2000).[Full Text]

[72] Kelling and Coles (1996); Kelling (1999) [Full Text].

[73] Savannah Police Department (1995).[Full Text]

[74] Kelling and Coles (1996) (discussing Seattle's response to panhandling); Santa Ana Police Department (1993) [Full Text]; Felson et al. (1996).

[75] Ellickson (1996); Lankenau (1999); Goldstein (1993).

[76] Goldstein (1993).

[77] Burke (2000); Delmonico (1996) [Full Text].

[78] Kelling and Coles (1996).

[79] Kelling and Coles (1996); Cosgrove and Grant (1997); Ellickson (1996); Mabry (1994) [Full Text]; Teir (1998) [Full Text]; Kozlowski (1999) (citing a Fort Lauderdale law).

[80] Ellickson (1996); see Munzer (1997) for a critique of Ellickson's zoning proposal.

[81] Kelling and Coles (1996) (citing a Seattle law).

[82] Vancouver Police Department (1999) [Full Text]; New York City Police Department (1994).

[83] University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Police and Security (1997).[Full Text]

[84] Teir (1993).[Full Text]

[85] Ellickson (1996).

[86] Ammann (2000) [Full Text]; Harcourt (1998) [Full Text].

[87] Heimberger (1992).[Full Text]

[88] Cosgrove and Grant (1997); Ellickson (1996); Mabry (1994) [Full Text]; Ybarra (1996); Santa Ana Police Department (1993).[Full Text]

[89] Ellickson (1996).

[90] Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[91] Ellickson (1996); Luckenbach and Acosta (1993); Santa Ana Police Department (1993) [Full Text]; Vancouver Police Department (1999) [Full Text]; Evanston Police Department (1995) [Full Text]; Higdon and Huber (1987); Manning (2000) [Full Text]; Cosgrove and Grant (1997).

[92] Barta (1999) [Abstract only]; Harcourt (1998) [Full Text].

[93] Ellickson (1996).

[94] University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Police and Security (1997) [Full Text]; Sampson and Scott (2000) (Fort Pierce case study). [Full Text]

[95] Evanston Police Department (1995).[Full Text]

[96] Kelling and Coles (1996).

[97] Nkrumah (1998); Egan (1993).

[98] Evanston Police Department (1995).[Full Text]

[99] Goldstein (1993).

[100] Egan (1993).

[101] Burns (1992) [Full Text]; Green Bay Police Department (1999) [Full Text]; Vancouver Police Department (1999) [Full Text]; Sampson and Scott (2000) (Fort Pierce case study) [Full Text]; Felson et al. (1996) [Full Text]; Duneier (1999).

[102] Santa Ana Police Department (1993).[Full Text]

[103] Sampson and Scott (2000) (Fort Pierce and San Diego case studies) [Full Text]; Santa Ana Police Department (1993) [Full Text]; Kelling and Coles (1996) (discussion of San Francisco's Operation Matrix).

[104] Seattle Police Department (2000); Alexandria Police Department (1995) [Full Text]; Green Bay Police Department (1999) [Full Text]; Higdon and Huber (1987) (Dundalk project).

[105] Santa Ana Police Department (1993).[Full Text]

[106] Vancouver Police Department (1999).

[107] Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[108] Felson et al. (1996).[Full Text]

[109] Stark (1992).

[110] Bittner (1967); Kelling and Coles (1994); Burke (1998); Goldstein (1993); Little (1992); Sampson and Scott (2000) (Fort Pierce case study) [Full Text]; Fontana Police Department (1998) [Full Text]; Higdon and Huber (1987) (Dundalk project); Manning (2000) [Full Text]; Felson et al. (1996). [Full Text]

[111] Fontana Police Department (1998).[Full Text]

[112] Felson et al. (1996). [Full Text]

[113] Goldstein (1993).

[114] Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[115] University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Police and Security (1997) [Full Text]; Manning (2000) [Full Text].

[116] Manning (2000) [Full Text]; Goldstein (1993); Stark (1992); Kelling and Coles (1994); Evanston Police Department (1995) [Full Text].

[117] Leoussis (1995) [Full Text]; Teir (1998, 1993) [Full Text] [Full Text].


Alexandria (Va.) Police Department (1995). “Alexandria Alcohol Interdiction Program.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. [Full Text]

Ammann, J. (2000). “Addressing Quality-of-Life Crimes in Our Cities: Criminalization, Community Courts and Community Compassion.” Saint Louis University Law Journal 44:811-820. [Full Text]

Barta, P. (1999). “Giuliani, Broken Windows and the Right To Beg.” Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law & Policy 6:165-194. [Abstract only]

Bittner, E. (1967). “The Police on Skid Row: A Study of Peace Keeping.” American Sociological Review 32(5):699-715.

Bland, N., and T. Read (2000). Policing Anti-Social Behaviour. Police Research Series, Paper 123. London: Home Office. [Full Text]

Burke, R. (2000). “The Regulation of Begging and Vagrancy: A Critical Discussion.” Crime Prevention and Community Safety 2(2):43-52.

-----(1998). “Begging, Vagrancy and Disorder.” In R.H. Burke (ed.), Zero Tolerance Policing. Leicester, England: Perpetuity Press.

Burns, M. (1992). “Fearing the Mirror: Responding to Beggars In a 'Kinder and Gentler' America.” Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 19(3):783-844. [Full Text]

Butterfield, F. (1988). “New Yorkers Growing Angry Over Aggressive Panhandlers.” New York Times, July 28, p. A1.

Center for the Community Interest (1996). “Aggressive Panhandling (Model Ordinance).” Washington, D.C.: Center for the Community Interest.

Chicago Tribune (1994). “Evanston Fights Panhandlers-With a Smile.” May 27, p. 1.

Cosgrove, C., and A. Grant (1997). National Survey of Municipal Police Departments on Urban Quality-of-Life Initiatives. Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum.

Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (1994). A Guide To Regulating Panhandling. Sacramento, Calif.: Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Delmonico, D. (1996). “Aggressive Panhandling Legislation and the Constitution: Evisceration of Fundamental Rights-Or Valid Restrictions Upon Offensive Conduct?” Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 23:557-590. [Full Text]

Duneier, M. (1999). Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Egan, T. (1993). “In 3 Progressive Cities, It's Law vs. Street People.” New York Times, Dec. 12.

Ellickson, R. (1996). “Controlling Chronic Misconduct in City Spaces: Of Panhandlers, Skid Rows and Public-Space Zoning.” Yale Law Journal 105(5):1165-1248.

Evanston Police Department (1995). “Anti-Panhandling Strategy.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. [Full text] Cited in Sampson, R., and M. Scott (2000). Tackling Crime and Other Public-Safety Problems: Case Studies in Problem-Solving. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. [Full Text] Also published as Mulholland, J., J. Sowa and E. Steinhoff (1997). “Evanston Reduces Aggressive Panhandling by Influencing the Behavior of Givers.” Problem-Solving Quarterly 10(1):9-12. [Full Text]

----- (n.d.). “Panhandling in Evanston: Preliminary Report.” Evanston, Ill.: Evanston Police Department.

Felson, M., M. Belanger, G. Bichler, C. Bruzinski, G. Campbell, C. Fried, K. Grofik, I. Mazur, A. O'Regan, P. Sweeney, A. Ullman, and L. Williams (1996). “Redesigning Hell: Preventing Crime and Disorder at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.” In R. Clarke (ed.), Preventing Mass Transit Crime. Crime Prevention Studies, Vol. 6. Monsey, N.Y.: Criminal Justice Press. [Full Text]

Fontana Police Department (1998). “Transient Enrichment Network.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. [Full Text]

Goldstein, B. (1993). “Panhandlers at Yale: A Case Study in the Limits of Law.” Indiana Law Review 27(2):295-359.

Green Bay (Wis.) Police Department (1999). “Street Sweeping, Broadway Style.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. Published in Police Executive Research Forum, National Institute of Justice and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (2000). Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing: The 1999 Herman Goldstein Award Winners. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. [Full Text]

Harcourt, B. (1998). “Reflecting on the Subject: A Critique of the Social Influence Conception of Deterrence, the Broken Windows Theory and Order-Maintenance Policing, New York Style.” Michigan Law Review 97:291-389. [Full Text]

Heimberger, B. (1992). “Working the Nightshift.” ProblemSolving Quarterly 5(4):1-2.[Full Text]

Hershkoff, H., and R. Conner (1993). “Aggressive Panhandling Laws.” ABA Journal 79 (June):40-41. [Full Text]

Higdon, R. and P. Huber (1987). How To Fight Fear: The COPE Program Package. Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum.

Kelling, G. (1999). 'Broken Windows' and Police Discretion. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice. [Full Text]

Kelling, G., and C. Coles (1996). Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities. New York: Free Press.

-----(1994). “Disorder and the Court.” Public Interest 116 (Summer):57-74.

Kozlowski, J. (1999). “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Panhandling in Public Parks and Places.” NRPA Law Review 34 (December):34-41.

Lankenau, S. (1999). “Stronger Than Dirt: Public Humiliation and Status Enhancement Among Panhandlers.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 28(3):288-318.

Leoussis, F. (1995). “The New Constitutional Right To Beg-Is Begging Really Protected Speech?” Saint Louis University Public Law Review 14(2):529-550. [Full Text]

Little, J. (1992). “Moral Dilemma.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 7, p. C1.

Luckenbach, R., and P. Acosta (1993). “The Street Beggar: Victim or Con Artist?” The Police Chief (October):126-128.

Mabry, C. (1994). “Brother, Can You Spare Some Change?-And Your Privacy, Too?: Avoiding a Fatal Collision Between Public Interests and Beggars' First Amendment Rights.” University of San Francisco Law Review 28(2):310-341. [Full Text]

Manning, N. (2000). “The Make-It-Count Scheme: A Partnership Response to Begging in Stoke-on-Trent City Centre.” Problem-Solving Quarterly 13(3):5-8. [Full Text]

Mitchell, C. (1994). “Aggressive Panhandling Legislation and Free Speech Claims: Begging for Trouble.” New York Law School Law Review 39(4):697-717.

Munzer, S. (1997). “Ellickson on 'Chronic Misconduct' in Urban Spaces: Of Panhandlers, Bench Squatters and Day Laborers.” Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Law Review 32:1-48.

New York City Police Department (1994). Police Strategy No. 5: Reclaiming the Public Spaces of New York. New York: New York City Police Department.

New York Times (1993). “Plan Helps Panhandlers With Vouchers, Not Quarters.” Current Events Edition. Sept. 26, p. I42.

Nichols, P. (1997). “The Panhandler's First Amendment Right: A Critique of Loper v. New York City Police Department and Related Academic Commentary.” South Carolina Law Review 48:267-291. [Full Text]

Nkrumah, W. (1998). “Shoppers Can Get Vouchers To Offer Panhandlers.” The Oregonian.

St. Petersburg (Fla.) Police Department (1997). “Repeat Alcoholic Offenders in Downtown St. Petersburg.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. [Full Text]

Sampson, R., and M. Scott (2000). Tackling Crime and Other Public-Safety Problems: Case Studies in Problem-Solving. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. [Full Text]

Santa Ana Police Department (1993). “Harbor Plaza/Riverbed Project.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. [Full Text] Cited in Sampson, R., and M. Scott (2000). Tackling Crime and Other Public-Safety Problems: Case Studies in Problem-Solving. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. [Full Text] Also published as Tegeler, B. (1993). “Shopping Center Blues.” Problem-Solving Quarterly 6(4):4-5. [Full Text]

Savannah (Ga.) Police Department (1995). “Crime Suppression Unit P.O.P. Project.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in ProblemOriented Policing. [Full Text]

Seattle Police Department (2000). Problem-Solving: Nine Case Studies and Lessons Learned. Seattle: Seattle Police Department.

Skogan, W. (1990). Disorder and Decline: Crime and the Spiral of Decay in American Neighborhoods. New York: Free Press.

Stark, L. (1992). “From Lemons to Lemonade: An Ethnographic Sketch of Late 20th Century Panhandling.” New England Journal of Public Policy 8(1):341-352.

Teir, R. (1998). “Restoring Order in Urban Public Spaces.” Texas Review of Law & Politics 2:256-291. [Full Text]

----- (1993). “Maintaining Safety and Civility in Public Spaces: A Constitutional Approach to Panhandling.” Louisiana Law Review 54(2):285-338. [Full Text]

University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Police and Security (1997). “UW Police Response to Alcoholic Vagrants.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. [Full Text]

Vancouver Police Department (1999). “Intersecting Solutions.” Submission for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. [Full Text]

Wall Street Journal (1993). “Vouchers for Panhandlers.” Aug. 26, p. A1.

Walston, G. (1999). “Examining the Constitutional Implications of Begging Prohibitions in California.” Whittier Law Review 20:547-575.

Wilson, G. (1991). “Exposure to Panhandling and Beliefs About Poverty Causation.” Sociology and Social Research 76(1):14-19.

Ybarra, M. (1996). “Don't Ask, Don't Beg, Don't Sit.” New York Times, May 19.

Related POP Projects


The quality and focus of these submissions vary considerably. With the exception of those submissions selected as winners or finalists, these documents are unedited and are reproduced in the condition in which they were submitted. They may nevertheless contain useful information or may report innovative projects.

Alcoholic Vagrants, University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department (WI, US), 1997

Alexandria Alcohol Interdiction Program [Goldstein Award Finalist], Alexandria Police Department (VA, US), 1995

Anti-Panhandling Strategy, Evanston Police Department (IL, US), 1995

Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project, Clearwater Police Department (FL, US), 2001

Crime Suppression Unit, Savannah Police Department (GA, US), 1995

Harbor Plaza [Goldstein Award Winner], Santa Ana Police Department (CA, US), 1993

Intersecting Solutions [Goldstein Award Finalist], Vancouver Police Department (BC, US), 1999

Operation Dodger [Goldstein Award Finalist], Sussex Police (Sussex, UK), 2005

Operation Spotlight [Goldstein Award Finalist], Arlington Police Department (TX, US), 2008

Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Panhandler Action Plan, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (FL, US), 2011

Repeat Alcoholic Offenders in Downtown St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Police Department (FL, US), 1997

State Street Spare Change, Madison Police Department (WI, US), 2006

Street Sweeping, Broadway Style [Goldstein Award Winner], Green Bay Police Department (WI, US), 1999

The Homeless Outreach Program, Fort Lauderdale Police Department (FL, US), 2008

The Transient Enrichment Network (TEN-4) [Goldstein Award Finalist], Fontana Police Department (CA, US), 1998

Transient Problems at Clairemont Square Mall, San Diego Police Department (CA, US), 2001