Mahwah Police are warning local 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.
Though police say the man has not committed any crimes, his behavior is “alarming…not normal [and] concerning to law enforcement authorities,” 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."
Police released the following safety tips residents should follow:
- If you are approached by an individual who you do not know asking for money it is in your best interest not to offer any money, politely deny the request and have no further conversation and keep walking.
- When you are in your vehicle it is always a good idea to keep your car doors locked.
- If you are walking to your vehicle in a parking lot always have your keys/key fob in your hand in preparation to open the door when you reach your vehicle.
- If you are in a parking lot always be aware of your surroundings and try to park in a well lit area.
- If you see someone loitering in the lot when you park your vehicle and are uncomfortable drive to a different location before parking and exiting your vehicle.
- If you are uncomfortable in your surroundings or see someone suspicious do not hesitate to notify the police by dialing 911.
- When leaving a store always ensure your wallet is already secured in your purse if that is where you carry it. Never walk through a parking lot going with your wallet open where credit cards or cash can easily be observed by other.