Burlington considering ticketing drivers for giving money to panhandlers

Sep 18 2019, 1:03 pm

The mayor of Burlington says she’s considering ticketing drivers who are caught giving money to panhandlers, over growing safety concerns.

During a planning and development committee meeting last week, a report addressing panhandling and related safety concerns in Burlington was brought up.

Following the meeting, Mayor Marianne Meed Ward commented on the report and said “no one should have to stand in a median and put themselves at risk to get help. As a society, we need to do more.”

On Tuesday, Meed Ward suggested the idea of ticketing drivers who give to roadside panhandlers and suggested that drivers handing money to someone outside a vehicle at a busy intersection constitutes distracted driving.

“I mentioned the option of police giving tickets (or preferably a warning) to drivers for careless driving for giving money to panhandlers at busy intersections,” said Meed Ward.

“This would be a chance to educate drivers that this behaviour puts drivers and pedestrians, including panhandlers, at risk and isn’t the best way to help those in need.”

Currently, panhandling is not a crime in Burlington and the city doesn’t have any bylaws in place to make it an offence.

However, Meed Ward says Halton police have been dealing with panhandlers and is concerned for both the safety of these individuals and generous drivers on the road.

According to Meed Ward, panhandlers in Burlington are always offered services, including emergency shelter, food bank information, and support and outreach resources, to use instead of panhandling.

However, to date, very few of these contacted individuals have accepted any of the offered assistance, according to Meed Ward.

Moreover, she said that to date there haven’t been any safety issues, however, she doesn’t want to wait for an accident to occur before the city does something.

“I do believe there is a safety issue – that has always been my concern, and we’ve been lucky there hasn’t been an incident,

Instead, to improve the safety for everyone, Meed Ward suggests if police can pull drivers over and educate them that what they’re doing isn’t safe, it could be an opportunity to hand over a pamphlet that shows how the driver can help in better ways.

The issue of roadside panhandling in Burlington will be discussed again at an upcoming city council meeting on September 23.