Panhandling discussion in Hagerstown brings enlightening information

HAGERSTOWN – A half hour discussion on the panhandling problem in Hagerstown during the Mayor and City Council work session Tuesday shed some light on the issues.

Wes Decker, Communications Officer for the City of Hagerstown, joined First News Wednesday for a recap of the meeting.

Police Chief Paul Kifer and representatives from the Homeless Coalition and Horizon Goodwill Industries talked about panhandling.

Decker said it was “presenting all sides of this particular situation from law enforcement to who these people are and why they’re out there asking for money.”

Chief Kifer said they have done research around the country on how other municipalities have dealt with panhandling and one of the solutions is signs.

The signs would be at the intersections where panhandlers stand and they would say, “Change the way you give.”

“Meaning don’t give to people who are asking right now because it’s very temporary, but give to these organizations some of them that were represented at the meeting yesterday,” Decker said.

Chief Kifer said there have been 57 complaints that have come in to him on panhandling since the beginning of the year with 12 citations filed. They expect more as the weather warms up.

The mayor and council will vote in the full session whether or not to authorize the signs as well as a possible campaign on education for the public and trying to get the word out on the street.

“These organizations are great at being out there on the street,” Decker said. “They’re not just sitting back in their offices. They’re engaging with these panhandlers and finding out what their stories are and what they can do to help them long term.”