TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) -With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, the crowds are bigger at stores, malls and other retail outlets. That means there can also be an increase in the number of people asking others for money, work or food.
At Tupelo’s Mall at Barnes Crossing, the regional shopping hub, solicitation of any kind is prohibited.
“And that covers anybody on the property, other than doing business, which is eating, shopping,” said Jeff Snyder, manager of The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
The policies are spelled out in the mall’s code of conduct and while the public has access to the mall, its stores and parking lot, visitors are still on private property, where safety is the top priority.
“There’s no system in place, whether you can determine if someone soliciting is legitimate or not, but a shopping center is here for retail use and food use, so we have to make sure people are coming getting a pleasant shopping experience , and environment without being hassled,” Snyder said.
Like many people, Billy Foster has seen people on roadsides asking for help, or he has been approached by people wanting money.
“Way I handle it, if someone is hungry, I will feed them, I will buy them something, like that,” Foster said.
Foster says sometimes the help is appreciated, other times, not so much.
“People get angry if you don’t give them the money, you have to be careful, some people might even rob you, you have to be really careful, this time of year,” he said.
The city of Tupelo doesn’t have any ordinance mentioning panhandling specifically. However, there is a solicitation ordinance. Anyone going door to door must have a permit. Police treat each panhandling report on a case by case basis. If someone is asked to leave private property, they have to leave. Officers also try to find help for those who really need it.
Police say if you encounter an aggressive panhandler, get away from the person, have a good description and call 9 1 1 .