Aggressive Panhandler Frightens Family Outside Please Touch Museum

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC10's George Spencer is in Fairmount Park where an aggressive panhandler has been targeting young women with children around the museum. The man even approached the NBC10 news van with a plea for cash. (Published Friday, Aug 15, 2014)

    Police and security at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum are on the lookout for an aggressive panhandler, who approached a mom and her kids outside the family attraction and continues to be spotted in the Fairmount Park area.

    "I need help. My wife was just in an accident," the suspect told NBC10's George Spencer late Friday.

    Police were informed immediately that the panhandler had returned to the same area -- where he demanded cash from a Montgomery County, Pa. mom a day earlier -- but were unable to locate the suspect Friday night.

    The woman, who asked not to be identified, said the same man caught on camera by NBC10 approached her and her two children Thursday outside the children’s museum located along the Avenue of the Republic in Fairmount Park.

    She and her two children were about 10 feet from the museum’s front doors when the man came upon them.

    “I was approached by a very irate man who was screaming and yelling that ‘My wife was in a car accident and I need $6 to get a ride to go be with her,’” she recalled.

    "He was becoming increasingly loud," she said. "I was afraid, he was getting very close. And he was starting to wave his hands very close to me."

    The mother asked the panhandler, who she described as 6-feet tall and fairly well dressed in a blue shirt, tan pants and jacket, to go away, but he continued to yell, she said.

    Fearful, she sent her kids inside the museum as the man went on to claim he was a Temple University professor that owned a local bar, according to the woman. He then offered her $100 if she could help him, she said.

    "He was specifically targeting young women with young children at a place where women take their children daily," she said.

    The man eventually left as a museum staffer came out to chase after him. Back inside, security called 911.

    Philadelphia Police Capt. Pasquale Agozzino, head of the 16th District, tells NBC10.com that a sergeant happened to be on patrol nearby and was at the museum within moments.

    After getting a description of the man, the sergeant searched for him along nearby Parkside Avenue, but the officer was unable to locate him.

    Please Touch Museum spokesperson Tory Harris said the museum always has security posted inside and outside and that they’ve contacted police about the issue.

    The mother, however, said security was never outside.

    The museum received reports that the man was causing trouble in the surrounding neighborhood and Fairmount Park over the past few weeks, Harris said.

    But police said Thursday’s incident was the first time they learned of the panhandler.

    The mother, who posted about her experience in a Facebook parenting group, said the whole experience was scary for her and the kids. She also said she’s frustrated that the museum did not warn members about the man.

    “People are grabbing kids out of car seats, getting bags out of the car and this guy could be coming up,” she said. “I want other women to know and to be cautious.”