Panhandling may rise with faltering economy

Higher unemployment rates are only one of many symptoms of a faltering economy.
Crimes ranging from panhandling to armed robbery often increase when there’s a recession, especially among those who have criminal records, according to a recent NPR article.
University Police Chief Dave Baer said the Bradley community may see an increase in the number of panhandlers on campus.
“We began to see more panhandlers about four or five years ago [when the economy was bad],” he said. “We approached the city and requested there be an ordinance [banning panhandling].”
Baer said panhandlers will continue coming to campus if students give them money when they ask for it.
“Students think ‘it’s just a buck,’” he said. “If the individual gets 40 or 50 people to think that, it entices them to come back.”
Sophomore social studies secondary education major Nora Rader said she sometimes gives panhandlers a few coins or a dollar.
“I just want them to leave me alone,” she said. “When you tell them you don’t have any money, they just keep asking you.”
The key to dealing with a panhandler is to not engage in conversation, Baer said.
“Tell them you can’t help, and call the police,” he said. “Even if they walk away, [university police] will try to find the person. If the panhandler is a repeat offender, he may be cited for breaking the city ordinance.”
Baer said the lines panhandlers use usually revolve around the person running out of gas and only needing a dollar or two to fill up and get home.
“A student who’s approached by anyone asking for money should tell them they can’t help, but [the student] can call campus police for them,” Baer said. “If the person is just trying to scam you for money, he will tell you ‘never mind’ and walk away.”
Even if a panhandler walks away, students should still alert university police, Baer said.
Baer said university police will give aid to anyone who actually needs it, so students need not worry about turning away someone who needs help.
Baer also said an important thing for students to remember is that many panhandlers are not actually homeless or destitute, but are looking for an easy way to make money.
Students should never, for any reason, allow a stranger into their vehicles, he said.
In addition to incidences of panhandling, the city of Peoria has seen a string of armed robberies in the month of January, with two to four happening on some days.
When in a business, should anyone see a person acting suspiciously in any way, but especially if they are loitering around the business, police should be called, Peoria police spokesman Doug Burgess said in a press release.
While there hasn’t been an armed robbery in any businesses immediately off campus, students should pay extra attention to their surroundings, Baer said.
Individuals who seem like easy victims can be robbed just as easily as a business, Baer said.
“Senior citizens or the person who won’t make eye contact [with a robber] or the woman who tightens her grip on her purse when she sees someone walking down the street can all be perceived as victims,” he said.
Baer said a good way to prevent someone from stealing everything from you is carrying a “throw-away wallet” or purse.
“If you’re going to buy a pizza and you know it’s only going to cost $15, don’t bring any more money,” he said. “Try to keep your cash in line with your purchases. If you don’t need all your credit cards, don’t carry them with you all the time.”
Baer also said students should surrender their wallets if approached by a robber.
“Just because you see it on TV, doesn’t mean you should [take the risk],” he said.