Police Arrest Aggressive Panhandler Who Allegedly Targeted Women Outside Museum

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Peter Van Allen
    The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia

    After various complaints about an aggressive panhandler outside of one of Philadelphia's favorite family attractions, police have a suspect in custody.

    Police officers arrested the unidentified man near the Philadelphia Zoo Sunday, according to the Please Touch Museum.

    On Monday, police didn't confirm the arrest and didn't release the suspect's name.

    Aggressive Panhandler Approaches Mom & Kids

    [PHI] Aggressive Panhandler Approaches Mom & Kids
    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.

    The alleged aggressive panhandler recently targeted women especially in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park area.

    One woman, who did not want to be identified, told NBC10 the unidentified man approached her back on July 17 while she was stopped at a red light on Belmont and Parkside Avenues -- that's not far the Please Touch Museum.

    "He told me his wife was pregnant but maintained he was a professor from Temple," the woman said. "He said she had been in a car accident and he needed help to get to the hospital or have a locksmith open his car which is why he was asking for money. He was asking me for a ride but did not try to force his way into my car."

    The woman says she drove off and called the Philadelphia Police Department's 16th District. She was transferred to 911 and reported the incident.

    The woman believes the man who approached her was the same person who approached a mom and her children outside the Please Touch Museum on Thursday.

    That other victim, who also asked not to be identified, said the man approached her and her two children 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 standing 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 spokeswoman 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 she never saw security posted 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.

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

    The panhandler later approached NBC10's George Spencer during his report Friday night.

    "I need help. My wife was just in an accident," the suspect told Spencer.

    Police were informed immediately that the panhandler had returned to the same area but were unable to locate the suspect Friday night.

    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.”

    The woman who claimed she was approached by the panhandler last month told NBC10 she once again contacted the 16th District after reading about him approaching the mother and her children. 

    "The woman who answered the phone did not forward me to an officer or take my information," the woman said. "I'm concerned that this man is dangerous and the complaints are not being taken seriously."

    Several NBC10 viewers also claimed they did not see any police officers patrol the area where the panhandler was spotted. The district however did catch up with their suspect on Sunday.