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Wethersfield Mayor: New Anti-Panhandling Ordinances Are "About Safety"

The Town of Wethersfield has enacted a series of ordinances aimed at so-called "panhandlers" — i.e., people who ask random people in public for money. Wethersfield mayor Michael Rell says the ordinances seek to keep panhandlers from interfering with traffic flow, from misrepresenting themselves to get donations, and from engaging in other prohibited conduct — e.g., aggressive behavior. Appearing on All Things Considered, Rell said his main concern is the safety of everyone on the streets — including the panhandlers. However, he says he doesn't know of any actual incidences of people getting hurt from a panhandling interaction.

The mayor also addresses a study released last year that found Wethersfield Police showed racial bias in traffic stops over a 5-year period. Rell says the situation has improved markedly under new police chief Rafael Medina and that he is confident the new anti-panhandling ordinances will be enforced without bias.

Also discussed:
- How Rell plans to enforce finding out if a panhandler is telling the truth about his or her background and/or circumstances
- The feedback Wethersfield is getting from neighboring towns
- How Bristol's panhandling management policy informed Wethersfield's
- Rell's thoughts on how he would react if the American Civil Liberties Union decided to sue
- The actual availability of the services he intends to direct panhandlers to

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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