Have you ever been driving along & come to an intersection where someone is standing by the road holding a cardboard sign? Some claim to be homeless wanting help or needing money for gas or food. There have even been people claiming to be disabled or pregnant in an attempt to touch the hearts & wallets of drivers going by. Brendan Spaar has seen this many times while driving in Forsyth County & on his way into Atlanta , Georgia.
The “ roadside entrepreneurs” are making a business of collecting money from the sympathetic drivers stopped for a light. There’s even an online site that tells you how to effectively panhandle. If you go to http://www.wikihow.com/Panhandle you can easily learn how to make your career as a successful “down and outer”. It has been reported that some of these people can make thousands of dollars with a piece of cardboard & a convincing story. They rarely get arrested & the income they make can make it profitable.
Most people are in a hurry once they get behind the wheel. When stopped at a light they tend to ignore what goes on around them. Since people holding signs at traffic lights have become more common, they almost blend in with the surroundings. Drivers in some cities are finding that ignoring someone with a cardboard sign could be a costly mistake.
Some cities are having police officers pose as sign holders in an attempt to crack down on drivers that aren’t wearing seatbelts or are using their cell phones to illegally talk or text. One of the undercover sign holders is the San Bernardino, California police department. They recently set up on the side of an interstate off ramp wearing regular clothing & holding a sign that read, ‘I am not homeless. SB Police. Looking for seat belt / cell phone violations.’ As drivers exited the ramp they were ticketed if they were observed to be on their cell phones or not wearing their seatbelts.
The 4 hour stakeout was a success in the eyes of the police department. There were 50 vehicle stops which resulted in 33 drivers getting tickets for cell phone violations, 15 tickets for seat belt violations, & 5 cars were impounded due to drivers having suspended licenses or no license at all. While the sign holders weren’t looking for handouts, it did wind up costing the drivers with violations.
It doesn’t appear that this has been put to use by the police departments around the Atlanta area but Brendan Spaar still suggests that drivers be aware of anyone holding signs on the side of the road. Having a conviction for a traffic violation on your record can hurt your wallet & car insurance rates.