Public Safety Tip
Periodically we will post a public safety-related topic of relevance in this section. Our intent is to educate, inform and, on occasion, stimulate constructive dialog.
No Means No
Those who live in Hartford, work here or visit have a right to feel safe while they’re here. It was in recognition of that inherent human right that the City’s Court of Common Council enacted an ordinance that prohibits panhandling in an aggressive manner. The ordinance, enacted in 1995, makes unlawful certain behaviors that are considered unsafe, threatening or harassing in nature. So how exactly does the ordinance define aggressive manner and what are these prohibited behaviors?
Sec. 25-15 of the City of Hartford Municipal Code defines aggressive manner as:
(1) Approaching, speaking to, or following a person in a manner as would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm or the commission of a criminal act upon the person, or upon property in the person's immediate possession;
(2) Touching another person without that person's consent in the course of asking for alms;
(3) Continuing to ask, beg or solicit alms from a person after the person has made a negative response;
(4) Following the person solicited before, after or while asking, begging or soliciting alms;
(5) Intentionally blocking or interfering with the sale or free passage of a person or vehicle by any means, including unreasonably causing a person or driver of a vehicle take evasive action to avoid physical contact; or
(6) Directing abusive or profane language toward the person solicited, either while asking, begging or soliciting alms, or following a refusal by the person solicited.
So what does ask, beg or solicit alms mean? As defined in the ordinance this includes the spoken, written or printed word or such other act conducted for the purpose of obtaining an immediate donation or money or thing of value.
There’s also a provision in the ordinance that prohibits the solicitation of alms in a false or misleading manner which is defined as:
(1) Stating or expressing that the donation is needed to meet a specific need, when the solicitor already has sufficient funds to meet that need and does not disclose that fact;
(2) Stating that the donation is needed to meet a need that does not exist;
(3) Stating that the solicitor is from out of town and stranded, when that is not true;
(4) Wearing or displaying an indication of physical disability, when the solicitor does not suffer the disability indicated; or
(5) Use of any makeup or device to simulate deformity.
So, in light of the above, what actions are actually prohibited by the Ordinance? The Ordinance is actually rather specific:
(1) No person may ask, beg or solicit alms, including money and other things of value, in an aggressive manner in any place open to the general public, including sidewalks, streets, alleys, driveways, parking lots, parks, plazas, buildings, doorways and entrances to buildings and gasoline service stations and the grounds enclosing buildings.
(2) No person may ask, beg or solicit alms, including money and other things of value in a false or misleading manner.
(3) No person may ask, beg or solicit alms in any public transportation vehicle; or within twenty-five (25) feet of any bus or train station or stop.
(4) No person may ask, beg or solicit alms within twenty-five (25) feet of any automatic teller machine (ATM).
(5) No person may ask, beg or solicit alms from any operator or occupant of a motor vehicle that is in traffic on a public street.
So how can someone go about actually helping the truly needy in Hartford?
First, it’s important to understand that the overwhelming majority of the homeless nationwide do not engage in any of the activities prohibited by this ordinance. It’s also important to understand that the overwhelming majority of those who do engage in these prohibited practices are not homeless. In fact, if you give to a panhandler you are more likely to subsidize substance abuse by that individual rather than help someone who is looking to obtain basic needs.
Second, if you wish to help the truly needy access basic needs, the Hartford Guides recommends supporting one of the following organizations that do simply outstanding work on behalf of the needy:
The House of Bread - http://hobread.org/
Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation - http://www.mercyhousingct.org/
My Sister’s Place - http://sistersplacect.org/
The Open Hearth - http://www.theopenhearth.org/
South Park Inn - http://www.southparkinn.org/
For additional information on services for the homeless in Metro Hartford go to:
The United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut - http://www.unitedwayinc.org/our-work/basic-needs
Or simply call Connecticut INFOLINE at 211 for more information
So what should you do if you’re approached by a panhandler?
(1) Simply say ‘No’ and continue on your way.If a panhandler is persistent, engages in any of the practices described above or if you feel harassed or threatened seek out or call the Hartford Police at 860-757-4000.
(2) Support one of the organizations listed above who ably provide genuine support for the needy.Your contribution will help provide the resources necessary to continue their work.
If you have any questions whatsoever about any of the information contained in this discussion please contact us directly either by telephone or by email through the Contact Us tab on this site.