Victim, police warn about panhandlers

Thursday, October 16th 2008, 7:32 pm
By: News 9

By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY - Metro police said they have seen an increase in people begging for money, and one metro woman found out the dangers of panhandlers first hand.

On Monday afternoon when Gay Johnson was leaving work, she got into her car and came face to face with an unexpected visitor.

"There was a gentleman banging on my window. He was yelling at me ‘Ma'am, ma'am, ma'am.' I crack the window and then he said ‘I'm not going to hurt you. I need money for gas,'" Johnson said.

Johnson cracked her window and gave the man money because she was trapped in her car.

"I was trying to back up and get out of there, but his car was blocking me. And I understand that it's a new tactic that's happening," Johnson said.

This tactic is something that concerns Oklahoma City police. They call it aggressive panhandling.

"I think people just driving around can see an increase. There used to be a time when you didn't ever see someone with a cardboard sign in an intersection asking for money," Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Paco Balderrama said.

The city has strict laws on aggressive panhandling. Nine of them fall under the category ranging from following closely, using profanity or causing the person to fear for safety.

In Johnson's case, the man blocked her vehicle, which is another case of aggressive panhandling. She couldn't believe how it happened.

"Broad daylight, really caught me by surprise, but with the economy situation right now I think people are kind of desperate," Johnson said.

Looking back, Johnson said she would have never rolled down her windows, and she would have called 911. She wants to warn people to do the same to protect themselves..

Police agree that is this ever happens to you, do not roll down your window and do call 911.