Friday, August 03, 2007

What is wrong with people???

The following was in the paper today. I am appalled that this would occur in a church of all places. I guess this goes to show that people do not understand the concept of "sacred". I realize that the "church" or place of worship is not limited to the building. But the purpose of the "worship space" is that it is designated as a holy, or sacred place, and the acts of worship is meant to connote and provide a place for people to commune with the holy. If we can't even feel safe in our church, where can we be safe?

The second point that this incident brings up is the concept of helping people who are in need. There are many people who genuinely need help (money, food, clothing, place to live) and there are those who wish to help. Once again, this incident brings up evidence that we cannot help everyone who asks for assistance. Some people don't really want the "help" that it dispensed. .. I will end my comments for now as this likely opens another can of worms from friends with whom I have had this conversation with over the years. It is just disheartening to hear of this incident. While I am glad that the perpetrator was caught, I am led wonder at how/if he will get help.

Elderly man assaulted in church by panhandler

The 79-year-old victim offered his attacker money when confronted

Linda Nguyen

Vancouver Sun

Friday, August 03, 2007

Vancouver police are seeking a violent panhandler caught on a surveillance camera assaulting an elderly parishioner who had offered him money inside downtown's Holy Rosary Cathedral.

The 79-year-old man was robbed Wednesday morning in what police called a "heartless and shocking" attack inside the Richards Street church.

Very Rev. Glenn Dion said Peter Collins has been a church parishioner for at least 30 years. A retired doctor, he lives nearby, walks to morning mass every day, and sometimes also goes to afternoon service.

"He's an elderly gentleman, really frail in his physical health and stamina," Dion said. "He's always here saying his prayers and being kindly to people. Everyone knows and recognizes him."

The grainy black-and-white surveillance images show Collins holding out a bill to a panhandler inside the church vestibule around 7:30 a.m. The panhandler makes a grab for the man's wallet, then picks him up and throws him to the floor. While Collins is on the floor, the panhandler takes money from the wallet and flees, leaving the wallet behind.

"This is a particularly cowardly act, not just on a senior citizen but on a senior citizen who offered him [the panhandler] some money," Vancouver police Const. Howard Chow said Thursday. "And this all took place inside the sanctuary of a church."

Chow said Collins had given the panhandler $5 before the morning service every day for the past four days. On Wednesday, he was running late and promised to give him some money after the service.

That's when Collins -- alone with the panhandler inside the church -- was confronted and attacked. Dion called 911 after Collins went to the church's office for help. He said Collins has memory lapses due to his age, but was very clear about what had happened.

By the time the police and ambulance arrived, Collins insisted he only had "minor tissue damage" and refused to be taken to hospital, Dion said. Instead, he borrowed a cane and walked home.

Later that day, he walked back to the church and returned it "because he didn't want to be seen with a cane anymore."

Despite some hip injuries, Collins went to morning mass on Thursday, a church official said.

Dion said panhandlers are a growing problem for his downtown parish.

"Some of them are pretty aggressive, pretty well insistent. They frighten people," he said. "It's a big problem."

Holy Rosary isn't the only church that has had problems with panhandlers. In June, the congregation of First United Church at Gore and East Hastings in the Downtown Eastside was disbanded after 122 years of worship. The congregation had been dwindling because people were intimidated by a growing nearby homeless population.

Dion said his church struggles to deal with the homeless every day and regularly calls police for help dealing with them. "It's one of the challenges of running a downtown parish," Dion said.

"We have people coming in here and they're in another world, they're either doped up or drunk up or else have psychological impairment and they do crazy things in the church."

The church installed four surveillance cameras, he said, "to be able to see in the office if there's any nonsense going on and if there is, we have to run out there and jump at it. We have to deal with whatever we have to. In this case, we were able to see the actual assault [after it had] taken place."

He said church staff regularly deal with people disrupting services, sleeping between the pews and have even encountered naked people in the church.

Some churchgoers have been intimidated from attending service after panhandlers made threatening comments about their cars when they refused to give money.

Lorne Mayencourt, the MLA for Vancouver-Burrard, who put forward two acts -- now passed -- targeting aggressive panhandling, said Thursday he's already received two phone calls from seniors who fear this particular panhandler.

"You think a church is a sanctuary for seniors but I've had two people call and say that this guy scares them and they don't even want to be walking around alone."

Vancouver police say the panhandler is well-known around the church. A few years ago, he kicked a church maintenance worker. "Our investigators are upset about this," Chow said. "We want to try to identify this guy before he does something like this again."

Professional panhandler' in custody

Darcy Jones faces one count of robbery

The Province

Friday, August 03, 2007

Vancouver police have made an arrest in the attack and robbery of an elderly man as he left Vancouver's Holy Rosary Cathedral Wednesday morning.

Darcy Lance Jones, 43, is facing a charge of robbery, and remains in police custody.

Jones was nabbed by police at the corner of Pender and Richards after he was spotted by a loss-prevention officer from the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

He is known to police and familiar to many in the area, and calls himself a "professional panhandler."

Witnesses to the attack say a bearded man who regularly panhandles outside the church attacked the longtime parishioner in what police called a "heartless and shocking" assault.

The attack, caught on surveillance video, shows the victim being knocked to the ground before the suspect takes off with the contents of his wallet.

The 79-year-old victim had given the panhandler $5 every day that week, but when he tried to give him the money on this occasion he was assaulted instead.

Vancouver police spokesman Const. Howard Chow said his advice to people confronted by an aggressive panhandler is to remain polite, but walk away and phone police.

He said although the number of panhandlers appears to be down, police still receive a lot of complaints from store owners and the public.

Chow noted it was a challenge to deal with some of the more aggressive ones because they often "have mental health issues or are drug addicted."

The victim of the attack injured his hip but is expected to be OK. Global News showed footage of the retired doctor returning to church for mass Friday morning.

He has been reluctant to talk to the media about the incident.

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