Seen a panhandler in Strongsville lately?
Plenty of people have. In just the last couple weeks:
• A man in his 40s was at the Shell station on Royalton Road, stopping cars as they passed to ask for money -- he said his car broke down on I-71.
• A guy in a pickup was asking BP customers for cash. He told police his ATM card was declined; he said his brother was walking to Brunswick to get gas money.
• A woman stood near Giant Eagle holding a sign saying she was unemployed and had a newborn baby.
• A woman carrying a baby walked around the parking lot at Target, begging for money.
• A couple with a baby held up a sign asking for help at Walmart.
• A man went to the Strongsville United Methodist Church soliciting money for gas.
Strongsville has no specific law regarding begging, but Detective Lt. John Janowski said panhandlers can be arrested for soliciting without a permit.
"Most of the time, that's what they're doing," Janowski said.
Police don't automatically cite people looking for a quick handout. If someone has an emergency and needs a few bucks, officers will try to help -- not make the problem worse.
"We try to take everything into account," Janowski said. "Is this their job -- are they doing it for a living? Or is it a run-out-of-gas situation?"
There are professional panhandlers out there, though.
"When they bond themselves out with a credit card, you wonder how down on their luck they really are," Janowski said.
In other areas, panhandling has become a controversial issue. In Fairlawn-Bath area, there were so many people begging for money along the roadways that fights broke out among people claiming a corner.
Fairlawn earlier this year passed legislation requiring panhandlers to register with the city before hitting the streets.
Janowski said that while the recession may have sent more people into the streets to beg for money, panhandling is nothing new.
"We've always had them," he said.