[Hpn] Soliciting Rules Explored

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Thu, 4 Nov 2004 21:10:41 -0500


www.boston.com/

 Soliciting rules explored

Portsmouth official says she was accosted

By Clare Kittredge, Globe Correspondent
November 4, 2004

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Portsmouth City Attorney Bob Sullivan is looking into
whether the city should regulate panhandlers after a city councilor
complained about being accosted by several men at a city intersection and
asked for cash.

Mayor Evelyn Sirrell said Sullivan is to present information on panhandling
and soliciting regulations to the City Council when it meets at 7 p.m. Nov.
22.
The need for an ordinance is being explored at the request of City Councilor
Laura Pantelakos. She said the issue came up when several men with buckets
approached her car recently, raising money for what appeared to be a
Christian cause.
Pantelakos, who was stopped at an intersection near a local supermarket,
said the men displayed dollar bills and asked for cash.
"I want panhandlers -- anybody who's going to panhandle in our city -- to be
identified, and I do not want them to be allowed to go out in the streets to
chase the people," said Pantelakos, also a Democratic state representative.
"If I'm sitting in my car, I do not think I should be accosted by someone to
give them money. And for an organization, I don't think it's a proper way
raise money. It doesn't look good. It looks slimy."
Portsmouth City Councilor John Hynes said Pantelakos is confusing
panhandling with solicitation. "I have reservations as to whether there is
any panhandling going on," Hynes said. "I see some solicitation. I think
what Councilor Pantelakos saw was solicitation."
Hynes, who sits on the board of the Salvation Army and founded a shelter for
the homeless, Crossroads House, said the city already requires a permit to
solicit money in certain situations.
"A panhandler is an unapproved, unlicensed individual who comes up to a
person and begs for money, and I don't see that in the city," Hynes said.
"It's possible that someone using a cup, can, using an illegitimate concern
is doing it and committing a fraud by doing it. But I don't see that in
Portsmouth."
For Pantelakos, the issue came up recently as she drove to the supermarket
around 4:30 or 5 p.m. "As it was getting dark, three or four men were at the
corner, and when we got to the [traffic] lights, they converged on us. They
waited for cars to stop and went up to them with white paint buckets waving
a dollar bill, and said we should give them money for some Christian
something" cause, she said. "To me, that's very frightening."
Pantelakos said the men told her they had police permission to stand in the
parking lot, as long as the supermarket did not mind.
"And when I asked [the police] if they had permission, they said there was
no law against them being there. But as soon as the police left, they went
for the cars again. I was not bothered by them at the supermarket, I was
bothered by them in my car."
The Portsmouth police say the city has no regulations governing panhandlers
per se.
"From what I am told, there is no state statute either," said Police Officer
Jon Aubin. "At most, the type of incident described could be construed as
disorderly conduct under state statute."
Although the city has no ordinance on panhandling, there are regulations
covering vendors on sidewalks, sports teams for "tag day" fund-raisers, and
magazine solicitors who go door to door, according to City Clerk Kelli
Barnaby.
While the city gets few complaints about panhandlers, Aubin said an
ordinance might help. "If there could be a city ordinance passed by the
city, it would be another tool we could use to deal with that specific
situation," said Aubin, adding: "We don't get many calls on it, and we have
a transient population, but it's a rare occurrence when we have reports of
them asking for money or other items."
The New Hampshire Municipal Association does not track municipal regulations
or ordinances involving issues such as panhandling, according to Lynn
Lessard, a spokeswoman.
Pantelakos finds the whole legal situation confusing. "We have no rule
against panhandling, but if Little Leaguers go out to tag, they have to get
permission," she said. "We need to get a handle on who's in our city asking
for money from our citizens."

 Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.