Former Providence mayor aims to crack down on panhandling downtown

kennedy plaza

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino is set to announce plans Wednesday aimed at cutting down on crime and panhandling in Kennedy Plaza.

Paolino has a business in the area and is spearheading an effort to make the downtown area safer and more appealing for pedestrians.

“We have to curtail it, eliminate panhandling.” said Paolino, who leads a group of other business owners, city officials, social service providers, and police.

Asking for money on the street is perfectly legal. The city even stopped enforcing an “aggressive panhandling” ordinance after multiple federal lawsuits.

Current Mayor Jorge Elorza had said he wants Kennedy Plaza to resemble something like Central Park. An optimistic Paolino believes that is possible.

“We can have farmers’ markets there on weekends, we can have artists drawing, sketching, and painting buildings,” he said. “We can take the building that is in Kennedy Plaza and maybe Rhode Island School of Design can make that into a museum.”

According to the Providence City Council’s agenda for Thursday, there is an ordinance that would not allow panhandlers to stop a car and ask for money.

The ban is sponsored by city councilman Wilbur Jennings.

“It’s dangerous,” Jennings said. “I watch these panhandlers, they stop cars, cars are blowing [their horns], beeping to get out of the way.”

Paolino said he will reveal more details of the plan on Wednesday. Eyewitness News will be in attendance and will provide updates on and tonight starting live at 5 on WPRI 12.

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