Darlington Police Chief cracks down on ‘aggressive’ panhandling

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – The Darlington Police Chief plans to crack down on aggressive panhandling in the city.

The Roses parking lot is just one street over from the police department but Chief Danny Watson says it is often a place people ask for money in the parking lot.

David Brunson said every time he goes to the Dollar General people sitting outside ask for money.

“Every now and then if I have the money I will give it to them,” said Brunson.

He said sometimes the panhandler will call him a liar if he says no.

“Even if they think I might be lying or not. I’ll help them if I have it because I understand,” said Brunson. “I was there. I was in a place where I was in a struggle and needed someone to help me.”

Watson said the problem started with one report of a man knocking on doors, asking for yard work. Then when the homeowner said no, he would ask for money. He calls this aggressive panhandling.

Incident report received by News13 details the man then grabbed the door. The homeowner said she was afraid he would try to enter the home. The report said the man seemed to have a mental health disorder and did not appear under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“If a young lady is at home or an elderly person that can be traumatic,” said Watson. “They don’t know who this person is. If the individual is kind of aggressive it can be very scary for them.”

Watson says if people are going door to door, don’t answer the door or call the department.

“We’re always available. Pick up the phone and dial 911 and we’re coming. We come 100 percent of the time,” he said.

Officers have stepped up patrols at store parking lots. They also went to each store in the city asking for help to identify people trespassing or loitering. So far, the department has about 10 people identified.

“We ran into a guy the other day that was doing that, he was getting money and we found him coming out of the liquor store,” Watson explained. “I guarantee the person that gave him four or five dollars didn’t give him four or five dollars to go and buy him a bottle of liquor.”

He wants people to be charitable but asks people to be cautious.

“We do a lot of stuff in the community. We help as much as we can. I just don’t think approaching someone in the parking lot of a grocery when they are trying to get their groceries is the appropriate time,” said Watson.

Watson said when people are identified loitering or trespassing, if the person is in need the department will help them find resources for help.

“You don’t know what’s going on with that individual. You don’t know if they are desperate or what exactly is going on with them. We are the ones that are equip and prepared to deal with that kind of stuff. With somewhat aggressive people, if they are genuinely in need we can point them in the right direction,” Watson concludes.