DOWNEY – Peddlers asking for money around the city of Downey have caught the attention of participants in the Downey Crime Watch Facebook page.
The social media-based crime watch effort was started in July of 2014 by Kandy Grzebyk to help Downey residents keep their loved ones and property safe, as well as keeping the community informed of local crime-related incidents that take place in the city from day to day.
However, in recent months the reoccurring theme of peddling, or more specifically peddling under false pretenses, has been a hotbed of debate for the group.
According to Grzebyk, the first time the issue was brought to light within the crime watch page was around December, however the topic really started to “heat up” around March. Specifically, one particular beggar has been identified more often than not.
“It’s always the same lady,” said Gryzebyk. “She’s described as a gypsy or Middle Eastern.”
Several crime watch participants have reported seeing this particular peddler in locations all over Downey, with some stating she has even been spotted in neighboring cities. She is often seen holding an infant in her arms, or being in the company of one to two children.
Several debates have erupted on the common posts over whether the involvement of children in peddling is legal or child endangerment. Some have even argued that the baby in the woman’s arms does not look real. Others have said that the woman will refuse groceries or other aid and will instead insist on being given money.
A Downey Patriot reporter approached the woman and offered to buy her and her child food. Like many of the claims given by Downey Crime Watchers, the woman declined the offer. The reporter was also able to confirm the infant’s validity.
The biggest concern, however, seems to be the added element a commonly spotted vehicle that seems to have some connection to the woman. Many have said they’ve seen her picked up in a Mercedes.
“I think the majority feel it’s not illegal, however it’s also not ethical,” said Grzebyk.
ABC-7 reported a similar story in 2014 about a pregnant peddler in San Diego who was seen laughing and counting money as she was picked up and driven away in a Mercedes-Benz, however it is unlikely that what the crime watch has witnessed is related.
Some have speculated that individuals like the woman in question may actually be acting against their will. One Crime Watcher posted a comment, saying, “Have any of you ever considered that she is made to do this. Just like human traffickers threaten with violence, harm may come to her or the children, she might be in a abusive relationship and maybe her life is in danger?”
Whatever the case, Grzebyk said that it is not a “witch hunt.”
“The end result may be the truth. Maybe she does not need the money or it’s not what it seems…It appears she’s doing pretty well by driving off in a Mercedes. If that’s not the case then maybe we’ll find out. Some have said maybe she’s forced to do this. If so, maybe she’ll get the help she needs to get out of a bad situation. If it’s not the case, she’ll be exposed and maybe this will put an end to it.”
Downey Police Department did not respond to a request for comment in time for this article.