Patrick Robinson had worked in this neighborhood for years. Holding up his sign, the familiar surroundings seemed strange. He felt exposed, intimately knowing what it felt like to be homeless now.
He pushed these thoughts out of his mind as the next car approached. The driver took no notice of him, and he knew it was time to pounce.
When Patrick Robinson first moved to Bethesda, Maryland, he had come there with a specific purpose. As time wore on, he’d grown more jaded.
Things were changing, and people seemed to care less each year. The city wasn’t the same. Crime was on the rise, and Patrick was a part of it whether he wanted to be or not.
It was a frigid day with dark clouds overhead. It was already midday, but Patrick noticed that many people still held onto their plastic cups for dear life. These drivers were oblivious.
He could not just be a bystander anymore. One way or another, Patrick had a personal mission today and was determined to see it through.
Being homeless wasn’t something you could ever plan for. Patrick never imagined he would ever find himself in this position, but here he was.
He had watched others on the street to try and blend in. It was a jungle out there, and he knew the risks all too well. This was a tough city, and people had to be strong to survive.
To Patrick, it wasn’t just about surviving. Things had to change. If that meant he had to be sneaky or underhanded, he was okay with it.
He had seen too many people fall on these streets to simply sit back and wait to be its next victim. He had stronger motivations now, and this strengthened his resolve.
He had carefully planned out his sign. There was no need to be coy or insincere. He knew most people would never take notice of him anyway.
He was just another homeless man. There was no need to stop, no need to show him any respect. Patrick smiled to himself, knowing that people ignored him at their peril today.
Patrick and his friends had been planning this for a long time. It had to be just right. Everything was taken into consideration, even the weather.
Dressed in a red hoody and dark sunglasses, Patrick lay in wait. Watching each car, he studied them carefully, even as they pretended he was invisible. Before long, his first victim came along.
A white male dressed in a smart suit and clearly a high-powered businessman, Patrick’s first victim never noticed a thing. As Patrick waved him down, the man sneered at him to get out of the way.
By the time he realized what was going on, Patrick signaled his friends, who cornered him until there was nowhere left to go.
Patrick noticed how other drivers shot him fearful glances as they passed. A few people noticed his sign now, but it was too late for most.
As more cars passed their spot, business picked up every hour, and one by one, they cornered more drivers. People realized what was happening now, but no one dared intervene.
This spot had always been notorious, but two weeks ago, the stakes were raised. For Patrick and his crew, their actions were personal today.
For far too long, people had been taking advantage of their leniency. Now it was time to strike back hard. As more vehicles passed Patrick’s trap, some were beginning to beg for mercy now.
Patrick thought back to his best friend now. An innocent life lost just two weeks ago at this very spot; it had been needless.
Patrick hoped that their actions today had made some kind of difference and would act as a warning. There was no longer any tolerance for those who ignored the rules.
As the traffic slowed down and the day came to a close, Patrick and his crew had caught 56 drivers. It was finally decided to call it a day.
Stripping off his undercover clothes, many drivers took notice of him now. After all, it wasn’t every day that you saw a homeless man transform into a police officer.
It was a fitting end to “operation homeless.” Patrick and the other members of the Montgomery County PD vowed to make it a regular occurrence.
Since Sergeant Luke Frasier had tragically lost their lives to a distracted driver two weeks prior, Patrick and his colleagues hoped that such measures would ensure this tragedy was never repeated.
Patrick knew that today, they had made a difference. When the next day arrived, the struggle would continue.
With such an increased rate of distracted-driver-related incidents, it was impossible to have eyes everywhere. Today had been a good start, but more had to be done to grow community engagement with traffic safety.
A few weeks on, the sting had been hailed as a resounding success. Since “operation homeless” had yielded such positive results, it had been repeated many times.
As word got out in the community, not only did driver violations decrease drastically, but there was an unintended benefit—community assistance for the homeless was reported to have increased too.