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New Bedford city councilors propose panhandling penalties

The city of New Bedford has been trying to crack down on panhandling for years, without much success. (WJAR)

The city of New Bedford has been trying to crack down on panhandling for years, without much success.

But some city councilors believe their latest proposal could change that.

Councilor Joe Lopes and Councilor Ian Abreu are supporting a proposal to penalize people who obstruct traffic in any way, which could come in the form of panhandling. The councilors involved would like an ordinance drafted similar to that of Seattle’s.

“There are individuals walking into traffic,” Abreu said.

The move is not just about helping drivers. Abreu hopes to help those in need at the same time.

“We want to try to work with the local nonprofits and local agencies and engage those individuals and give them the tools they need to reintegrate back into society and become productive members of society,” Abreu said.

He also suggested putting up signs that encourage people to donate to non-profits that help the vulnerable or those struggling with addiction. Abreu said the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico put up similar signs and raised around $60,000 for non-profits.

“We want to protect everybody all while having something on our books that can pass constitutional muster,” he said.

A proposal for panhandler licenses failed last year. The American Civil Liberties Union, as well as Mayor Jon Mitchell, called it unconstitutional.

The proposal must first go to the ordinance committee, and if passed, it will go before council.

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