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Dec 18, 2015 5:08 PM

Firefighters' boot drive cancelled in Rochester

ROCHESTER - Something’s missing from downtown Rochester this holiday season.

There will be no Santa waving people down while firefighters hold out their boots to collect money for toys.

"We have the new ordinance, and we had to look at other avenues to raise funds," said Chris Stevens, president of the Rochester Professional Firefighters.

In November, the city passed a new ordinance prohibiting panhandling. Firefighters were warned their annual boot drive would be considered panhandling.

"It's for safety. We’ve had situations where people would bang on car windows and be very aggressive. The passengers inside felt unsafe," said police Captain Gary Boudreau.

In some ways, the ordinance has been effective.

"It's cut down on the problem," Boudreau said.

But's it's also had unintended consequences, like cancelling the Christmas boot drive that supplies needy children with toys, a longstanding Rochester tradition,

"We do 600 or more kids. That's a lot," said Stevens.

And it's not just Christmas -- the boot drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Relay for Life and Operation Warm have all been cancelled too.

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