Sociologist Debunks Misperceptions After Baltimore Panhandler Murder Ruse
By Liam Farrell
Following the revelation that a man and his daughter allegedly staged his wife’s death and blamed it on a panhandler in Baltimore, Reeve Vanneman, a sociology professor who teaches a course on homelessness, dispels several misconceptions about homeless people and panhandlers.
The original story played out like an urban nightmare: A woman rolls down her window to help a Baltimore panhandler who appears to be holding a baby, when a man tries to steal her purse and stabs her to death in the ensuing struggle.
The news rocketed around the Internet, with Baltimore’s homeless describing a steep decline in generosity and Oprah Winfrey tweeting that she would think twice before giving money to panhandlers again.
But the story of that December night fell apart earlier this week when police said the panhandler tale was a ruse concocted by Jacquelyn Smith’s husband and stepdaughter, now charged with her murder.
“Oftentimes, we have these negative depictions of our city,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said at a news conference, “and it’s rather unfortunate when people take advantage of these negative perceptions.”
Against that background, Reeve Vanneman, a UMD sociology professor who teaches a course on homelessness, recently shared some perspective about homeless people and panhandlers with Maryland Today.
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