August 14, 2013

Lewiston discusses panhandling restrictions

The Associated Press

LEWISTON — Another major Maine city is considering panhandling restrictions.

Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere told city councilors on Tuesday that the city has a problem with aggressive panhandling and panhandling in traffic.

He says the aggressiveness is worse, with people asking for money, cigarettes or food, then blocking, following and swearing at people who say "no."

He says the department received 33 complaints about panhandlers during the last 12 months. Some were people begging for change in traffic, but most were complaints of aggressive panhandlers.

The Sun Journal reports that the city is considering fines of up to $400 for aggressive panhandlers.

Portland last month approved rules that bar loitering on traffic medians, aimed mostly at panhandlers.

Cities can't ban panhandling entirely since it's considered constitutionally protected free speech.

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