A video from the Ventura Police Department showing officers urging everyone to say no to handouts has ignited a debate over how to treat panhandlers.
The video, recently posted on social media, shows a uniformed officer holding a sign with a message, saying "don't" give to panhandlers. Police commanders say they're just giving kindhearted donors a suggestion because they may not be aware that the cash is often used to buy alcohol or drugs, not food.
"We're not saying, 'It's wrong.' We're just saying, 'There's better ways to do it,'" said Commander Tom Higgins, of the Ventura Police Department. "It's gotten our message out and it's made people aware of the problem."
Police advise people to give to charities, where the money is guaranteed to be used for food, shelter and other services for the homeless. Not everyone agrees with this approach.
The video, which has landed more than 127,000 views on Facebook, has drawn criticism for stereotyping the homeless as addicts. One panhandler said some of the money he collects goes toward alcohol.
But he insists that people who give it to him already know that and the department's video campaign is a waste of time.