City Council Continues to Grapple With Ways to Combat ‘Aggressive’ Begging
New Bedford city councilors continue to work out solutions to the city's increased number of panhandlers that won't face legal challenges.
During Thursday night's meeting, councilors proposed a number of new suggestions, including informational signs and messages through media campaigns, surveillance cameras in high-volume areas and placing uniformed officers alongside panhandlers to deter their "aggressive" nature as well as motorists from giving them any money.
Ward 3 Councilor Henry Bousquet says the idea id to implement a "small campaign to alert people to the fact that the reason the aggressive beggars and panhandling exist is because we take care of those people."
The proposed campaign was referred to the City's Department of Tourism and Marketing, and would be broadcast on Cable Access along with other media outlets.
Councilors also discussed palling signs along intersections with information better ways to support those in need.
Councilor at Large Ian Abreu said it was taking a lesson from similar "Make Your Change Count" campaigns across the country. Signs would list ways to contribute directly to agencies rather than folks on the street.
"We can educate the public about wonderful agencies in the city," Abreu said. "It lets people know their dollar counts and will go toward a legitimate organization."
In opposition to littering the city with signs, Council President Linda Morad suggested Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson place Deputies alongside beggars on medians in the city to deter them from standing there, while also stopping people from giving them money.
"I'm hoping that if you place a figure of authority next to someone who is asking for money that maybe that will deter the person from standing on that corner," Morad said. "But, more importantly, maybe it will deter somebody from rolling down their window and giving to panhandlers."
Morad said she plans on speaking with Mayor Jon Mitchell and Sheriff Thomas Hodgson about the idea more next week.
Finally, Councilor at Large Debora Coelho filed a motion to install more surveillance cameras in known areas of increased panhandling. She said this would provide more proof of their "aggressive" begging and possibly give police more leverage to enforce current solicitation ordinances.