Sunday, September 10, 2006

Panhandlers in FAYETTE?

Times they be a changin'! My two sisters came to visit me this weekend. On their way here they made a quick stop at Wal-Mart at the Pavilion in Fayetteville to pick up a birthday present (an espresso machine). As they got out of their vehicle they were accosted by a large (huge) red-eyed, mean talkin' man with a cute little tyke. He said he had run out of gas and needed some money, would they help.

Now my two sisters are about the most generous types on earth. Claire has given up years of Tuesday nights to feed the homeless. Her church members take turns buying the food and cooking for 200 or more that show each week. Lynda is off a similar nature.

If they had given even a tiny bit of credibility to the man's story, they would have gone into Wal-Mart, bought a gas can or two, gone and filled it up and handed it to the man.

Unfortunately, he was so obviously not legit they shook their head no and went into the store. The man had similarly approached the people in the car next to them and they had similarly said sorry, can't help.

Claire and Lynda made record time getting the present (they were bragging later about how they had, for the first time in their shopping life, not dawdled on any of the aisles looking at sales items, etc.

They zoomed out to the truck only to discover that it had been keyed. Yup, keyed. They noticed that the car next to them had also been keyed.

After a short conference, they decided it would be a good idea to report the incident to Wal-Mart, even though they did not see the man in hanging around the parking lot thinking Wal-Mart's security would keep an eye out. Nope, our stalwart and rightly thinking Wal-Mart managers called the police who responded VERY fast!

Two cars arrived; one took my sister's report, assigned a case number and went through all the appropriate steps. The others took off to try and find the panhandler. For those who may not be aware (I wasn't), it is illegal in Fayetteville (and probably all of Fayette County) to panhandle.

Unfortunately, it didn't look like they were able to locate them man and the unfortunate little girl with him.

My sisters and I discussed this off and on throughout the weekend. We worried about the little girl and we worried about others whose cars may have received the same treatment.

One thing I didn't think of until after my sisters were on their way back home is the difference in their reaction to a panhandler compared to what mine probably would have been.

Because I live in Fayette County, it would have been so out of the norm to see a panhandler I would have walked into Wal-Mart and reported it before shopping. I would have expected the police to come and try to track the man down.

My sisters live on the north side of Atlanta. They are more accustomed to seeing panhandlers and they're not used to a quick response from the police.

Yes, it's bad that we in Fayette are starting to see some of the same problems that occur in other counties and cities. However, we've still got a long way to go before we accept things like panhandlers as a normal part of life. We have the ability to stop this from becoming the status quo. However, to stop it, we're all going to have to put some effort into protecting our way of life. We can't leave it up to our elected officials, our police, to others. We ALL have to get involved and be vigilant.

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