The Chesterfield Police Department is reporting an increase potential scammers posing as panhandlers in the city's major retail centers.
The individuals approach shoppers and ask for money, usually due to an emergency such as needing gas or to help a child. Chesterfield Police Officer Mike Ryffel said the parking lots of Walmart, Target and the Chesterfield Mall have been popular targets.
"We would like to remind the public that the majority of these incidents are scams and that no emergency is taking place," he said. "Unfortunately, this may be difficult to determine if the person asking for money can appear to be in distress."
Town and Country-Manchester Patch reader Kelley Yahl experienced this first hand while shopping at the Walmart in Chesterfield on Oct. 29. In an email to Patch, Yahl explained she was approached by a couple with a young child.
"The man asked if he could have money to feed his family," she said.
Ryffel said it can be hard to say no to someone in such a situation, but explained that the best course of action is to call 911 or your local law enforcement. Tell the person that you believe the police will be better able to to help them.
"If it is a true emergency where the person needs assistance, the police can provide resources to help the person by using organizations and community groups that are prepared and funded to help a person in need," he said.
Ryffel added that any kind of panhandling activity without prior permission, even if it's for charity, is against city statutes.
For more information or to report an incident, contact the Chesterfield Police Department at 636-537-300.