Somersworth passes panhandling ordinance


City councilors in Somersworth voted 6-3 in favor of an ordinance that limits panhandling in the city. The new ordinance prohibits passing items to or from a motor vehicle when a vehicle is located in a roadway. Drivers and panhandlers could be fined up to $500 under the ordinance.

Mayor Dana Hilliard and city councilor Dale Sprague introduced the ordinance “out of public safety concerns,” Hilliard said. “People are questioning what can be done.”

Somersworth is the latest Seacoast community to look at ordinances to curb panhandling. Rochester city councilors proposed an anti-panhandling ordinance last spring. That ordinance wasn’t adopted; since then, councilors in Rochester have been looking at an ordinance similar to Somersworth’s.

“We’re not after people who are desolate,” Hilliard said. The ordinance targets what he believes is a “well-organized” group of panhandlers who approach cars on city streets.

“It’s a risk to our community and to those individuals (who are asking for money) as well,” he says. — LC