Panhandling takes a strange turn
From the July, 2014 issue
"Do you know Jesus?" the man growled at a couple walking near Kerrytown on a spring night. He was tilting to one side and held a beer can in each hand. "Good evening, sir," the man said, not making eye contact. "Do you know Jesus?!" the man demanded again. "Good evening, sir," the man repeated as the couple walked quickly past. "Pussies!" the man yelled at their retreating backs.
"I think sometimes they just want to get a rise out of you," says Ann Arbor police lieutenant Ed Dreslinski about the eerie mix of aggression and evangelism lately dispensed by some local panhandlers, Some, Dreslinski says, taunt people who refused to give handouts. And some are just plain angry and hoping to get into a confrontation. The invocation of Jesus or God is not uncommon, he adds. Neither are hurled profanities.
Dreslinski says he and other officers see many of the same faces among the clusters of panhandlers who sometimes gather on State St. near campus or on Main when the bars let out. His advice: if you're feeling intimidated, call 911; police should arrive quickly.
[Originally published in July, 2014.]