TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A couple of years ago, a video from Tyler went viral showing a man pretending to play the violin and asking money for it. Since KETK’s investigation on this issue a couple of years back, this fraud has become a growing problem nationwide and professional musicians aren’t too happy about it.
Douglas Hansen has been a violinist for over 15 years and you may have noticed him playing his violin in front of the La-Z-Boy in Tyler.
“It’s a sore topic for a lot of us because I’m out here in 100 degrees or 40-degree weather, playing my violin to help make ends meet,” said Hansen.
He shares that it’s disappointing to see people taking advantage of the art for financial gain during the holiday season.
“It really just irritates me to no extent. These guys aren’t playing music. They have an electric violin hooked up to a pickup amp and they’re moving their fingers around, but if you actually watch them, none of their movements match up with their music,” Hansen said.
The Tyler Police Department says they are aware of the fraud activity that happened last year. These performers were set up in parking lots in front of stores like Ross and Best Buy pretending to play while customers walked by, placing money in their cases.
So far, no reports of such activity taking place this holiday season, but police warn East Texans to be cautious when giving people money.
“Just be aware that if you do see somebody soliciting in the roadway, they can only do that with a permit if they decide to do that. We need to know about that mainly because it is dangerous for that person. We don’t want anybody hurt while they’re on the roadway, but it is against the law to do that”, said Andy Erbaugh, Public Information Officer with the Tyler Police Department.
The city says anytime someone is asking for cash on private property, it is up to the owner whether they should be removed or not.
“If you have somebody in a parking lot who is approaching customers, you can let management know and if they say they allowed them to be on there, then there’s nothing that the Police can do about it. If they don’t want them out there, then we can come out and have them warned off the property,” said Erbaugh.
Musicians like Hansen have devoted their time, money, and passion to playing the violin, hoping that cautioning people will bring justice to those pretending to play.
If you see any suspicious activity like this happening in our community you can call the non-emergency number for the Tyler Police Department at 903-531-1000.