CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Police are taking to the streets on Wednesday night, trying a new tactic to stop panhandling in Charlotte.
Officers in plain clothes are targeting busy areas near hotels and restaurants. However, this operation is different than those in the past because the goal isn’t to arrest panhandlers.
The new effort began in February, when eight out of nine panhandlers accepted the help offered to them.
NBC Charlotte talked to one panhandler about the issue at lunch time on Wednesday.
“You can make up to $150, up to $300 dollars easy,” he said.
However, at night you likely won’t see the police operation targeting panhandlers because the officers will be undercover. They are heading out in the evening because panhandling is illegal after dark. They will be making rounds in plain clothes to crack down on panhandlers.
“Any place uptown where there's a lot of pedestrian traffic,” says Captain Dave Johnson with CMPD.
However, this is very different from past operations to deal with panhandling where the focus was on taking people to jail. The goal now is to get people in need help.
“We have service providers on site, everything from drug counselors to housing,” says Captain Johnson.
“That’s very good, instead of taking us to jail and get out and the same thing,” says one panhandler who spoke to NBC Charlotte. “There's a lot of people that need help.”
“This is your ticket to not go to jail,” says Captain Johnson. “We know we can't arrest our way out of this panhandling issue.”
It's the third undercover operation of its kind.
“We’ve had tremendous success with it and two of those individuals are still in housing today,” says Captain Johnson.
Panhandling is also illegal when people are in line or near an ATM.
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