BRISTOL - The Ordinance Committee voted Wednesday to refer proposed revisions to the cityâ€™s panhandling and loitering ordinance to the City Council next week. These revisions are intended to help crack down on aggressive panhandlers.Â
A public hearing has been recommended for May 30. The time of that hearing is still pending.
Attorney Tom Conlin explained that Police Chief Brian Gould has based proposed revisions to the cityâ€™s panhandling ordinance and loitering ordinance on ordinances from cities experiencing similar issues with aggressive panhandling.
Â â€śThese cases are being tested all over the country,â€ť said Conlin. â€śThe ACLU is taking a strong interest in this issue. But often when they get involved it is when municipal ordinances are not tight enough and they can argue that the city is silencing freedom of speech by preventing people from holding up signs. By having our definition focusing on aggressive panhandling it certainly helps our case.â€ť
Gould said there has been an increase in loitering and panhandling throughout the city.
â€śThe police department and the mayorâ€™s office have been receiving a lot of complaints,â€ť he said. â€śMy main goal is compliance - making sure that we contact people who are in violation and ask them to leave. There is currently not sufficient language to give us the teeth to take action.â€ť
Gould stressed that the revised ordinance is not intended to interfere with the First Amendment.
â€śThis is meant to restrict aggressive panhandling and we feel it is extremely fair,â€ť he said.
Gould defined aggressive panhandling as following people after they have said no, or standing in a roadway and impeding traffic.
â€śIt is good that you outlined aggressive behavior,â€ť said Dave Mills, ordinance committee member. â€śIâ€™ve seen a lot of people behaving this way while selling roses, especially on Farmington Avenue.â€ť
Gould said he is not against people selling roses, but that it should be done in appropriate places and not the middle of the road.
Gould also encouraged property owners to put up clearly posted no loitering or no trespassing signs, which makes it easier for police to tell people to leave.
â€śOnce people realize the restrictions we hope that they will follow regulations,â€ť said Gould. â€śMy big concern is not people who are truly asking for assistance. People are coming into our town and scamming our citizens and we donâ€™t want that. People are wearing makeup to make their faces look dirty and faking injuries. This is legitimately happening.â€ť
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or .