WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) – The town of Wethersfield passed an ordinance Monday night that would crack down on panhandling in high-traffic areas.
“We’ve reworked the language just to make sure that it has broad support amongst the council,” said Wethersfield Mayor Mike Rell.
It is a balancing act, protecting free speech versus safety on the roadways.
“It’s totally content neutral. This ordinance, it’s not restricting anyone’s speech,” said Wethersfield Town Council member Mary Pelletier.
But it’s stopping panhandlers from restricting the flow of traffic. People with signs stopping traffic for money and standing on corners and very narrow medians in the center of traffic. They’ve had several close calls in Wethersfield.
“There has been incidence of someone falling into the roadway from the median so it’s just an accident waiting to happen,” Pelletier said.
“If they are like stopping traffic or affecting traffic or something like that, then that’s different, but people who are less fortunate, they need help,” said Evens Stjuste.
Rell said the goal is to get them that help. While there can be up to a $50 fine for constant repeat offenders, police will more than likely ask them to leave and point them in the right direction for homeless services.
“We have social and youth services here, 211 is available statewide and we provide the resources. We can provide temporary housing for those who claim homelessness, we have substance-abuse treatment facilities,” Rell said.
Wethersfield is not the first to consider this. Enfield already banned panhandling in high traffic areas.
News 8 reached out to the ACLU but has not yet heard back.