A video of a man pretending to play the violin outside of a Giant in Clifton was revealed by a post on the social media site, NextDoor, May 13.
The poster said that they had given money to the man before realizing that the man was playing music from a speaker and not actually playing his violin. The post said that the man was known to do this across the county.
This tactic is one of the many ways to solicit money that has occurred in Fairfax County.
Asking for money in front of stores or out in public does not violate Virginia law, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. It is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Those who solicit money on private property can be asked to leave. However, they have the right to ask for money on public property, such as outside of grocery stores or by road medians, Tom Barnett, deputy director of the Office to Prevent Homelessness in Fairfax County’s Department of Housing and Community Development said.
Law enforcement will only engage when panhandling escalates into a situation where criminal activity or traffic offenses occur, according to the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.
“We cannot prohibit people giving money or people soliciting money as panhandlers,” said Barnett.
Although individuals are legally allowed to ask for money in public, the Office to End and Prevent Homelessness advises individuals to not give money to panhandlers. Donating money will not solve the larger issue at hand, they said.
“We think that the money is better used to support local nonprofits,” said Barnett.
There are currently 1,222 individuals experiencing homelessness in Fairfax County, increasing from years prior, according to the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. There are also 57 individuals completely unsheltered.
African Americans make up 51 percent of the homeless population despite making up 10 percent of the Fairfax County population, Barnett said.
“That speaks to a lot of the legacy history and current discrimination that happens around jobs and housing across the US,” he explained.
“Our department remains committed to enforcing laws, but it is equally important for us to provide adequate resources to those in need,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a released statement. They declined an interview for this story.
The Office to Prevent and End Homelessness provides outreach teams to connect with individuals experiencing homelessness and help them find a shelter.
“One of the best ways people can help is using information that we have and a handout like published on our website,” Barnett said.