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Local Cops on Look Out for 'Alarming' Beggar

Police are warning residents of five recent reports of a man persistently begging for money from women sitting in their cars at local shopping centers

A local police agency is warning residents to look out for a man who has reportedly approached five different women in area shopping centers over the past two-and-a-half weeks begging for money. One of the incidents reportedly happened in Ramsey, police say.

The Mahwah Police Department issued a warning about the incidents Tuesday.

Though police say the man has not committed any crimes, his behavior is “alarming…not normal [and] concerning to law enforcement authorities,” Mahwah Police Chief Jim Batelli said Tuesday.

Police issued a warning Tuesday alerting residents to the man, who was described as “an African American, mid 30s, tall, wearing a business suit with a striped tie, a long goatee and short hair,” Batelli said.

The man will typically approach women sitting in their cars in local shopping centers, knock on the window, and persistently ask for money to help him get home to NYC, or to cross the George Washington Bridge, police said. Investigation of the incidents has led police to believe that the man’s story about needing to travel to New York is not true, Batelli said.

The first incident was reported in the parking lot of the Gateway Shopping Center on Franklin Turnpike at about 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 25, Batelli said.

According to police, four similar incidents have happened since – one in another Franklin Turnpike shopping center, one by the post office in Suffern, one by the Grand Buffet in Ramsey and one Tuesday evening around 5 p.m. near the Mahwah CVS.

“This is not like being in a public roadway in the city and having someone walk up to you panhandling,” Batelli said. “This is knocking on your car window, and being persistent enough that it prompted five women in three different jurisdictions to feel that their safety was enough in jeopardy that they called the police.”

Batelli said Mahwah Police are working with authorities from Suffern to identify the man. Police are not looking for him as part of a criminal investigation, Batelli said, but "are attempting to determine his identity and speak with him regarding these incidents [and] find out what his intentions are."

Ramsey Police Chief Bryan Gurney said the incident in Ramsey, which happened Jan. 29, "really [wasn't] unusual. We get people asking for money from time to time."

But, Gurney did release the following safety tips for residents:

  • When leaving stores be cognizant of your surroundings
  • Have keys ready to open vehicles
  • Park in lighted area, if possible
  • If approached, politely decline and go about your business
  • If actor becomes aggressive call police or walk to an open store. Then call the police.
  • At any time you feel you are in danger, call police or 911.

Submit your questions or news tips to jessica.mazzola@patch.com. And, remember to sign up for Ramsey Patch's daily newsletter, and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Roberta February 13, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Ladies, I have a rule never to let anyone, male or female within 10 feet of me when In public. When walking, I never stop to engage. We are targets to these bums and owe them nothing. If I'm going to be a target, I'll be a moving target. If you are sitting in your car, hit your panic button if your alarm system has one, but do not open your door or roll down your window. Drive away!
Jessica Mazzola February 13, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Thanks, Roberta. Just an FYI, I just updated the article with some more comments and tips from the Ramsey PD.

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