Police warn against giving money to panhandlers during holidays

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- It's the season of giving and during the holidays, you may see more people than usual asking for donations or monetary funds.

“We're typically seeing the panhandling in the business districts that are close to our major highways and or streets in town,” says Officer Bridget Coit with the Eau Claire Police Department.

“I do think that corresponds with people being in a giving mood and it is very busy around our business areas. The Oakwood Mall is very busy and we have those citizens coming in who are more in a giving mood and there are individuals who are coming in to reap the benefit of those donations,” says Coit.

But it's something the police department is used to handling.

“About 5 or so years ago the Eau Claire Police Department really did an in depth research on the panhandlers in the area and found that there's actually people who travel into our area that are not homeless and do not need that assistance but know that our area is very generous and by standing out and asking for monetary donations, they're making hundreds of dollars within a weekend,” says Coit.

Officers say panhandlers like to stake out heavily trafficked areas where you might have to wait in your car for a while, like when you’re getting off an exit ramp, or waiting at a stoplight.

“I think it all depends on the individual. We have seen pets out there with the individuals asking for money and it's likely someone not from our area,” says Coit.

If you do want to donate to help someone in need, police say give a locally known charity, pantry, or non-profit.

“If you donate to a local charity or something else that may be helping that type of population group, you know where your money's going,” says Coit.

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