Complaints of aggressive panhandling in Stratford have led to the drafting of a new town ordinance that aims to curb the quality of life issue.
"Some residents feel they are being intimidated by people who aggressively panhandle by following them into stores, continuously asking for money and so on," Councilman Jason Santi (D-4) tells Stratford Patch.
"This is especially a safety concern for parents with their children. It occurs at various stores," he said. "Other types of panhandling involves panhandlers holding up traffic at exit interchanges. This is a safety issue when people have to stop to give money to panhandlers who hold up their vehicles."
In addition to improving safety in public places, the new ordinance seeks to weed out solicitors "who knowingly throw a nonsense story" together for financial gain, said Santi, adding that he's witnessed panhandlers "target certain areas, pretend to be homeless, collect money [and] drive off in their cars."
"I think it is wrong to pretend to be homeless," he said. "Those who are truly homeless need all the help they can get with certain programs offered by the town and state."
The Councilman said nothing currently on the books addresses aggressive panhandling. He said the new ordinance (which can be read in the PDF above, starting on page 10) will provide local police "one more tool in their belts" to tackle the quality of life issue.
"This ordinance cannot outlaw panhandling because that is a part of free speech, however, it will be used to outlaw aspects of aggressive panhandling," Santi said. "The intention of this proposed ordinance is to combat aggressive panhandlers, not legitimate solicitors who have permission/proper permits from the property owner to conduct legitimate business."