Isolated incidents of passive panhandling are usually a low police priority. In many jurisdictions, panhandling is not even illegal. Even where it is illegal, police usually tolerate passive panhandling, for both legal and practical reasons. Courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that passive panhandling is constitutionally protected activity. Police can reasonably conclude that, absent citizen complaints, their time is better spent addressing more serious problems. Whether panhandling and other forms of street disorder cause or contribute to more serious crime.
Panhandling becomes a higher police priority when it becomes aggressive or so pervasive that its cumulative effect, even when done passively, to make passersby apprehensive. Panhandling is of greater concern to merchants who worry that their customers will be discouraged from patronizing their business. Merchants are most likely to call police when panhandling disrupts their commerce.
Police must also be concerned with the welfare of panhandlers who are vulnerable to physical and verbal assault by other panhandlers, street robbers†† or passersby who react violently to being panhandled. Panhandlers often claim certain spots as their own territory, and disputes and fights over territory are not uncommon.
Broadly speaking, public policy perspectives on panhandling are of two types; the sympathetic view and the unsympathetic view. The sympathetic view, commonly but not unanimously held by civil libertarians and homeless advocates, is that panhandling is essential to destitute people's survival, and should not be regulated by police. Some even view panhandling as a poignant expression of the plight of the needy, and an opportunity for the more fortunate to help. The unsympathetic view is that panhandling contributes to further community disorder and crime, as well as to panhandlers' degradation and deterioration as their underlying problems does not get addressed. Those holding this view believe panhandling should be heavily regulated by police.
People's opinions about panhandling are rooted in deeply held beliefs about individual liberty, public order and social
responsibility. Their opinions are also shaped by their actual exposure to panhandling, the more people are panhandled, the less sympathetic they are toward panhandlers. While begging is discouraged on most philosophical grounds and by most major religions, many people feel torn about whether to give money to panhandlers. Some people tolerate all sorts of street disorder, while others are genuinely frightened by it. This tension between opposing viewpoints will undoubtedly always exist.
Some individuals will offer services in exchange for donations; people perform nominal labor such as 'squeeging' (cleaning) the windshields of cars stopped in traffic, holding car doors open, saving parking spaces, guarding parked cars, and carrying luggage or groceries.