Tulsa Police say ' be careful where you give your money'

Tuesday, December 21st 2004, 10:00 am
By: News On 6

Many people feel generous this time of year, which allows many organizations to help thousands of needy people. However, Tulsa Police say beware of giving your money to people begging on the street.

News on six crime reporter Lori Fullbright's investigation reveals some shocking facts about these folks claiming to be homeless and hungry.

Police say begging has become a too familiar sight at intersections around Tulsa. While it's not illegal to beg for money, police say it's not a very nice thing to see for people who live here and those who come to visit. Folks can get a ticket if they step into the street or hold up traffic while accepting the donation, like one woman was doing Tuesday afternoon.

Whenever Tulsa Police Sgt. Rick Bondy issues a ticket, he also confiscates the person's sign. In just a few months, his office is nearly covered with signs. If many of them look similar, there's a reason. "We've learned there's a person in the homeless community who does these signs and helps other people write them. Hungry, homeless and god bless, you have those words, and you get money."

Sergeant Bondy says many people don't realize the majority of these folks are not simply down on their luck, they are often alcoholics or criminals who've been arrested many times.

When Tulsa Police say these people have been arrested numerous times, they're not kidding. We found police reports that show one man was arrested 64 times for public drunk, another 86 times and another man arrested 107 times. And sometimes, it's much more serious.

Officers recently confiscated Brian Dunker's sign at Skelly and Lewis. Turns out he's a convicted sex offender who'd moved to Tulsa and never registered.

A man holding a sign didn't really need a ride to the city, Tulsa Police learned Kenneth Mattern was a fugitive from Norman wanted for armed robbery.

Police admire people who want to give money to people in need, that's why they recommend people give to places like homeless shelters, churches, Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

Police say the people on street corners can make between $35 and $300 a day and they've even seen some who hold a sign all day, then get in a car and drive off.

Tulsa Police don't want to seem heartless; they just want people to know the truth behind some of these signs and sad stories.