Interacting with panhandlers is not recommended and can be extremely dangerous. Panhandlers’ situations are rarely what they portray. Often times panhandlers have ulterior motives that are violent in nature.
Several days ago a Maryland woman rolled her window down at 12:30am to give money to a young woman holding what appeared to be a baby and sign that read, “Help me feed my baby.” As the good samaritan was giving the woman money, a man appeared and fatally stabbed her in the chest while stealing her pocketbook and necklace. Learn more about the incident by clicking here.
This is a terrible tragedy that could have easily been avoided by simply not interacting with panhandlers. In addition, there were multiple pre-attack indicators present. Five things that influenced that outcome of this tragedy are as follows:
- Ignoring Intuition: The victim rolled the window down to give money despite her husband’s reluctance. We must always listen to our intuition and not second guess it. It is easy to become swayed by our values and desire to help others. Always give yourself the benefit of the doubt. The safety of you and your loved ones must always comes first.
- Breaching Safety of Vehicle (Transitional Space): Transitional spaces, such as roadways and sidewalks, can be dangerous places that expose us to the criminal element. A locked vehicle with the ability to quickly leave an area helps mitigate the majority of dangers in transitional spaces. Stopping a vehicle, rolling down the window, exposing yourself and valuables to an unknown individual negates the protection a locked vehicle provides.
- Not Scanning for Secondary Threats (Focus Lock): It is extremely common for women and children to be used as a distraction or ruse. In this case a woman, the appearance of a baby and the pretense of needing money to feed the baby were used to make an emotional appeal to the unknowing. The sudden appearance of a male associate should have raised red flags and was reason to immediately drive away. On my way home in the evenings, I pass through an intersection that often times has a panhandler approaching vehicles for money. On two occasions I have seen young women asking for money. On both occasions, a male associate could be seen lurking nearby.
- Exposing Valuables: One problem with interacting with panhandlers is that it forces most people to look down at their purse or wallet while they are exposing valuables. In this case money and jewelry were exposed, both of which were taken by lethal force.
- Not Understanding the Rules of the Game: Sadly, this entire incident could have been avoided if the “rules of the game” were understood in advance. First, look at the how the appeal for money is made. It usually involves work, food, children, homelessness or a combination thereof. In all instances, these are emotional triggers that bring out the compassion in us. Criminals appeal to the emotions of the uninformed to break down barriers, get within striking distance, and do harm.
Not all panhandlers have bad intentions. The problem is that you can’t discern good from bad until it’s too late. The next time you are approached by a panhandler, ask yourself, is the interaction worth the risk?