Desperate panhandlers scrambling in the tough economy are wading into busy Boston intersections – prompting city council member to call for a crackdown and the mayor to report dangerous encounters, reports the Boston Herald. Street beggars are blatantly violating a city law barring “aggressive solicitation,” including panhandling in traffic. The Herald found panhandlers in rush-hour traffic on major roadways. The aggressive solicitation law prohibits panhandlers from “intentionally or recklessly blocking or interfering with” vehicles or people. The law also bars beggars from soliciting near banks and ATMs or “in an aggressive manner.” Violators can be fined $100.
City Councilor John Tobin expressed shock at panhandlers venturing into traffic on a four-lane road. “You're sympathetic to them but you want them to be safe. God forbid you hurt or kill one of these people out there.” Councilor Michael Flaherty, who is running for mayor, suggested the city look into a program in Denver where old parking meters are placed throughout the city as donation bins for the homeless. Denver officials credit the program with a 92 percent decrease in panhandling. “Whether it's in the streets or on the sidewalk, panhandling exists because there's a market for it,” Flaherty said. “We have to educate motorists and residents that giving panhandlers money on the street does not help them. They think they're helping but they're not.”