HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- If it's been a while since anyone has asked if you can spare some change in downtown Huntington, you are not imagining things.
The numbers of citations in 2013 show that panhandlers are getting the message that they aren't welcome.
In 2012, there were 33 citations for this type of activity. That is 11 fewer than the 44 reported in 2009.
In 2008, there were 31; 42 in 2010, 38 in 2011; and five months in to 2013, there have been nine. The numbers are on track to trend down at the end of the year.
One of the incidents in 2013 includes a grandmother who was taking her grandchildren along for the begging.
The Huntington Police Department has two officers dedicated to the downtown area. They look for the problem, and they also rely on business owners -- calling them directly to report the problem.
Huntington Police Sgt. Darrell Booth says the business owners can often bypass 911 and call his cell phone, along with Officer Tim Sexton directly.
Once on scene, they move the person along and alert them about community help available to people in need.
"Many of these panhandlers operate on a ruse, total fraud," Booth said. "Everything they tell you is false, just to feed an addiction or looking for an alternative to an honest days work."
Paul Robateau, a manager at Glenn's Sporting Goods in downtown Huntington, says the help from HPD has helped them focus on what is happening inside their store, namely the customers.
"We want to give them the best service we can," Robateau said. "We want them leaving they have that feeling like, 'Hey, I want to come back to this establishment' and when you have somebody out there saying, 'Give me a dollar,' they don't want to come back."
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