Panhandling sparks response in town
Several residents' complaints about aggressive panhandlers in New Milford have sparked a response.
A public hearing is set May 12 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall about a possible panhandling control ordinance.
"We are now experiencing people banging on car windows and saying `I need money. You can afford to help,' " Mayor Pat Murphy said. "It's happened at Big Y and CVS parking lots. I've heard from a dozen women who have come to my office to complain."
Murphy said if people are feeling frightened when they're in New Milford's downtown, strong action has to be taken.
There have been instances of panhandlers on HART buses demanding money from passengers, panhandlers running up to cars parked at stop signs and traffic lights, DiBella said
"The purpose of this ordinance is to preserve all people's right to be free from harassing, disruptive, obstructive or intimidating behavior," DiBella said, "by people engaged in panhandling."
"This is to foster a safe and harassment-free climate in public places," DiBella continued.
The ordinance was drafted after DiBella researched state statute and other ordinances from around the country, in particular Danbury.
"I believe the Danbury ordinance is broader, because it says it is to keep people free from offensive behavior," he added. "The mayor wanted to address specific behavior. Offensive is one thing. This ordinance addresses coercive, intimidating, threatening behavior."
Police Chief Shawn Boyne approves of the ordinance. He said it will give his officers another tool just below taking felony offense action.
Danbury police said their ordinance has helped curb panhandling behavior in the city, DiBella said.
A panhandling offense in New Milford would be subject to a fine of no more than $250.