Cranston City Council approves panhandling ordinance

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The Cranston City Council voted to approve an ordinance in an effort to crack down on soliciting within the city.

The ordinance, approved in a 5-4 vote Wednesday night, forbids a person from entering or standing in the road, or a median to receive money from drivers.

This applies to panhandlers, student athletes raising money, firefighters “filling the boot”, etc.

Proponents argued that soliciting in the streets causes car crashes and other safety hazards.

Cranston resident Mark Collins spoke at the meeting about why he supports the ban and said, “A simple Google search will identify a number of motor vehicle accidents where pedestrians are in the road soliciting for money, soliciting for anything.”

Opponents said that the ordinance violates the right to free speech and preys on the poor.

Councilor Steven Stycos voted against the ordinance and said, “The courts are going to find that it’s a violation of freedom of speech and we’re going to end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and end up right where we are now.”

Mayor Allan Fung said, “What we are trying to do is have any kinds of transactions that are occurring in to and outside motor vehicles happen in a safer designated area. They can still have it done on a sidewalk from a non moving vehicle it just can’t be in those busy intersections and roadways.”

Once the mayor signs the ordinance, it becomes law.

In April of 2016, Cranston agreed to stop enforcing a panhandling ban after a lawsuit brought on by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Last month, a bill was introduced at the statehouse that would fine motorists who roll down their windows to give money to panhandlers.