NEW BEDFORD - City Council passed two motions on two unanimous votes in council chambers on Tuesday night.

They call for the discussion of the feasibility of implementing an online police reporting system by elected officials, and for the drafting of an ordinance similar to that of one in Seattle, Washington, that imposes penalties for intentionally obstructing traffic as a means for panhandling.

Councilor At-Large Ian Abreu filed the motion calling for a discussion between city officials about implementing the online crime reporting system. The motion states the system would be intended for reporting non-violent crimes. The motion also cites the success the Cities of Providence and Cranston, Rhode Island have claimed to have had since implementing the online service last year.

“The statistics have proven that this has shown to cut down officer response time for non-violent crimes by 30 %,” Councilor Abreu said. “This keeps our police officers out on the streets, engaged in our neighborhoods, able to respond to the real serious crimes that may face our community.”

According to Abreu and the motion, the online crime reporting service “will provide online access to citizens 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” With its unanimous passing in council chambers, the motion will be referred to Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, the Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods, city CFO Ari Sky, and the Mitchell Administration.

City Council also unanimously passed a motion requesting the Committee on Ordinances to draft an ordinance that will establish penalties on those who intentionally obstruct or interfere with pedestrians or vehicle traffic, similar to the ordinance used in Seattle. City Council proposed the ordinance as a means of addressing panhandling.

"We certainly have to look at minimizing the risk to drivers in the city, and that's in addition to my other motion to giving city services to panhandlers and preventing hand to hand donations," said Ward Three City Councilor Hugh Dunn. “One of them kind of penalizes the activity, and the other seems to look to prevent those donations, so I think they're both avenues that should be explored.”

Councilor Abreu filed the motion with Council President Joseph Lopes and Ward Five Councilor Kerry Winterson. Abreu says the City Council wants to “protect and sustain and respect everyone's first amendment, free speech protected rights”, but also wants to hold those accountable who pose as a risk to drivers and pedestrians.

“This holds those accountable who are going out deliberately into traffic, blocking, traffic, walking out into traffic into intersections as traffic is coming and going," Abreu said. “That's what we're trying to look at here. This is about public safety for everybody, both sides, for both the panhandler and the motorist.”

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