Manchester moves to curb panhandling, use the Concord experience
Panhandling. It's a growing problem in New Hampshire cities.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said an ordinance banning panhandling will restore his city's quality of life.
"When people are getting accosted in parking lots, I'm not so sure those folks are affecting the quality of life of residents in this city, and we need to do something about it,'' Gatsas told NH1 News.
The city's homeless services director estimates nine in 10 are out there with signs asking for money to feed a drug habit.
"Just a couple of weeks ago, I was behind a car on Bridge and Beech and there was a gentleman standing on the corner there,'' Gatsas said. "They actually swapped signs. He got into a car, and the other guy came out and held the sign.''
The Queen City's Board of Aldermen will receive the Gatsas plan at a meeting this Tuesday.
They worked with Concord where a two-year pilot ordinance will soon be made permanent.
"It turned out very well,'' said Concord City Manager Tom Aspell. "We ended up with about 160 calls if you just look at 2014. We ended up issuing 30 citations on that.''
Aspell said Concord panhandlers often were a low-grade criminal enterprise.
"It was more a business,'' he said. "You know the van shows up, the white van shows up parks in a commercial lot. Three guys get out, they each take a corner.''
How do ordinances like this get around First Amendment concerns?
Groups like the ALCU agree you can't ban someone asking for help but you can prohibit someone asking for something in return. So you prohibit the conduct not the speech.
Concord's ordinance carries a maximum fine of $500 but those who are caught get a warning the first time. There is an exception for police officers and motorists exchanging information after an accident.