“Aggressive Panhandling” or Failed Mugging?

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Triggered by something over at MonkeyPants, and realized her comment system would probably explode if I wrote my diatribe into there, so I put it here, instead.

Working in the business district downtown, you get a lot of the guys who’re “from outta town who just need enough to get to SomewhereElse for a job that starts in three days.”  They usually open with “I thought Vancouver was supposed to be *FRIENDLY*” or “can’t you help out a guy from the East coast, laddie?” and then launch into their schpiel if you make eye contact.

I’ve heard the stories a bunch of times, and they usually have it down pretty good after they’ve been doing it for a while (and tend to really ham it up, if they think you’re a tourist off the cruiseships at Canada Place, two blocks away).

I will often cut them off mid sentence and paraphrase Flava Flav “I can’t do nothin’ for you, man.”  I’ve had a few get tense with me because I’m allegedly calling them a liar, to which I usually respond that while THEY might not be lying, the other FOUR GUYS I’ve heard the story from in the last month certainly were.

Now, I’m also a well-fed, English as a first-language male just shy of six feet tall, wide-shouldered, weigh 240 pounds and look fairly un-fuck-with-able when I get my grump on, and you can see my Blackberry on my hip, which means I have a cel phone and a camera, so it doesn’t really go past that, usually.  Besides, who’re the cops gonna believe if some physical altercation takes place: “Guy with wife and two kids heading to work?” or “Guy scamming tourists for booze money?”

But I always feel bad for the tourists (or the new Vancouverites) who don’t realize that these guys have no problem telling you about their starving kids or pregnant wife trapped in a broken-down car somewhere, breaking into tears (and trying to get you to, too) if it means you might part with five (or twenty) dollars.

They’ll also happily yell/swear at you if you just tell them no.  There was a guy a few weeks ago that was *slapping* people (mostly women) after really aggressively trying to get money.  He was tracked on video cameras near SkyTrain stations, and picked up the same day his face was on the cover of Vancouver Sun’s website.  It started out as an “aggressive panhandler” story, but quickly was rebranded as a “serial mugging” instead.  I think anyone who gets up in your grill is heading into that same territory, and should be dealt with accordingly.

A bullshit story is one thing, and guilt is just part of that, but making anyone feel physically threatened in order to get anything from them is simply illegal.  We like to think Vancouver is crime free for the most part, but mugging is what’s happening in those cases, successfully or not.

But the “binners” who look for returnable bottles in the lanes and alleys of Vancouver?  Most of those people work harder than *I* do.

Posted on August 24th 2009 in Grumpy Old Man, People, Places

One Response to ““Aggressive Panhandling” or Failed Mugging?”

  1. MonkeyPants Says:

    Thank you for this. I don’t know what would happen if someone actually slapped me, but I’d like to think I’d shriek for help at least. Given my size, striking back might not be the best option.

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