Henrico County putting up signs to discourage panhandling

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico County is trying a new tactic to keep panhandlers out of the community.

Since it cannot legally prevent people from soliciting, the county hopes to persuade drivers from giving them money by putting up signs dissuading drivers from giving up their money.

The county says part of the reason they’re investing in the signs is the danger created by people panhandling in the medians of the county’s busiest intersections.

8News reporter Kristin Smith spoke with a man who lives in the woods and often panhandles on the median near the McDonald’s in Short Pump.

JT Stone insists he is homeless and said that he gets by on the money people give him, but admits he’s frustrated by panhandlers who are just out to make a profit.

“At the end of the day, they’re going home. They can shower, turn on the t.v. I’m going back to the woods,” Stone said.

Beyond the problem of panhandlers potentially taking advantage of drivers, the county contends the act is dangerous.

8News spoke with Brandon Hinton, the Henrico Deputy County Manager for Community Services.

“These medians are very small and sometimes you see one, two individuals and an animal with them and we’re truly concerned someone is going to get hurt,” Hinton said.

As a result, Henrico crews have targeted 10 of the busiest intersections for traffic and soliciting. They have put up signs discouraging drivers from giving money to panhandlers.

“What we’re seeing is, the more money individuals give, the more solicitors you’re going to see. And the more of a public safety concern we have,” Hinton said.

The pilot program may be working. Several intersections popular with panhandlers were empty today

Several intersections popular with panhandlers were empty Monday.

JT Stone said the signs haven’t stopped people from lending him a hand.

“You’re telling someone in a car not to help someone else out with the sign and I just don’t think that’s right,” Stone said. “Does it deter them? No. Because people are going to have a heart, regardless.”

On those signs, there is also a phone number for people who legitimately need help finding a place to sleep or finding something to eat. The county says since it can help those people in need, there is no reason for people driving by to give them anything.

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