August 14, 2013

Lewiston considers panhandling restrictions

The Associated Press

LEWISTON — Lewiston city councilors are considering new restrictions on people seeking roadside handouts following complaints about aggressive panhandlers and panhandling in traffic.

Police Chief Michael Bussiere told councilors at a workshop Tuesday that many panhandlers intimidate people with the way they ask for money or follow people who don't give to them.

He outlined possible rules that could be passed that would levy fines on people who ask for rides, work, contributions or donations from drivers on city streets or who use profanity or block or follow people who say "no." The Sun Journal reported that fines could go as high as $400 following multiple convictions.

"The idea behind this ordinance is not to ban solicitation," Bussiere said. "We're pretty comfortable that we can't do that. It's a First Amendment concern. But we do have to address the more serious concerns, and those are hazards in the roadway and aggressive solicitation."

The City Council is expected to see the proposal at a meeting later this year.

Portland's City Council last month passed an ordinance that bans loitering in street medians. The ordinance, which goes into effect Thursday, doesn't mention panhandling but was passed in response to complaints about panhandlers creating safety issues when they stand in medians.

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