BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Asking for money on the streets of the Town of Niagara used to be legal, not anymore.
"Really only because of the excessive, numerous amounts of complaints we were receiving because of the behavior of some of the panhandlers, it caused us to look at the local law, see that we didn’t have one," said Police Chief James Suitor.
The Town Board passed an ordinance Tuesday that bans "aggressive panhandling" in public areas which is defined as:
"Intentionally or recklessly making any physical contact with or touching another person in the course of the solicitation, or approaching within an arm's length of a person, except with the person's consent."
Chief Suitor identified the Military and Packard Road intersection right off of Interstate 190 as the place where most people complained about panhandling.
"People were getting afraid...you don’t know what someone’s gonna do when they come up to your window and you’re trying to watch them and that might cause an accident at the corner, all these kinds of things," said Town Supervisor Lee Wallace.
Violators must pay a fine.
"Minimum of $25, maximum of $250 with a possible, and remotely, but possible, incarceration of up to 15 days," explained Chief Suitor who says this is determined by a judge.
The law is to ensure the safety, promote tourism, and allow free flow of traffic, according to Wallace, who says it does not prohibit charity drives, as long as they're given permission by the town.
The neighboring City of Niagara Falls already has a similar law in place, this ordinance mirrors it to avoid confusion when going between municipalities, according to Chief Suitor.
The law bans panhandling in any public area, but specifies a few locations:
- Banks or banking organizations
- Bus stops and shelters
No arrests have been made yet.