A proposed ordinance seeks to slap aggressive panhandlers with $200 fines.
The measure, introduced by a 6-0 council vote on Tuesday, acknowledges the constitutional right to “beg or solicit in a peaceful and nonthreatening manner.”
But it aims to crack down on panhandlers who approach or follow pedestrians, use abusive language or make physical contact, or who block pedestrians or traffic.
“We were getting a lot of complaints regarding aggressive panhandling in the business district, as well as local daycare where parents were routinely approached every morning and evening,” said Vij Pawar, the town attorney.
“Since there are First Amendment issues involved, we wanted to address the public safety issue without violating anyone’s constitutional rights.”
The lawyer described the ordinance as “narrowly tailored with specifically delineated governmental interest”: The public safety of people withdrawing money and the safety of children.
In addition to banning public panhandling in an “aggressive manner,” the ordinance, if approved on its second reading, would prohibit any solicitation within 10 feet of entrances and exits of banks, check cashing businesses and ATM machines.
The practice also would be prohibited within 10 feet of any school entrance, exit or parking area, including daycare centers, preschools and other early learning facilities, during school hours and drop-off and pickup times.
Approaching anyone in a motor vehicle to offer a service connected with that vehicle, “or otherwise soliciting the sale of goods or services,” if done aggressively, also would be deemed a violation of the town’s police regulations.
Unenclosed ATM machines in supermarkets, airports and schools would be exempt, if the cash machines only are available for use during regular hours of those facilities.