Aggressive panhandling has become such a problem in Brockton, Massachusetts, that city officials are putting the beggars on notice. Authorities say they have started cracking down on the behavior, while also being careful to balance compassion with consequences.
The panhandlers can be spotted all over town, from street corners to shopping plazas. They are not afraid to approach, but it is how they approach when asking for money that has many residents afraid of them.
“I had one man ask me multiple times in one day and when I told him no, I didn’t have cash, he started to curse me out while my son was in the backseat,” one woman said.
Others said the panhandlers have reached into their cars at stoplights and followed them into stores from parking lots.
The city began receiving complaints from business owners, which is a big reason why authorities are spearheading the effort that Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter says is two-fold.
First, authorities are going to start enforcing the state law that says it is illegal to solicit from motorists without a special permit. They are also encouraging business owners to place no trespassing orders on panhandlers who are told to leave but do not listen. Anyone who violates that order can be criminally charged.
“My goal is to make folks so uncomfortable to try to do it here that they decide to go someplace else,” Carpenter said. “One of my concerns as Mayor is people come into the city and they think we're allowing this and we're not.”
Carpenter said no one will go to jail without a warning, but this is something they will be enforcing like they did last week when a man was arrested for panhandling outside of a Market Basket where he was trespassing.
The city council has also filed an ordinance that would support the panhandling crackdown. They hope to vote on it in the coming months.