PAWTUCKET – A city ordinance that essentially prohibits panhandling in Pawtucket’s intersections has been repealed as an unenforceable rule.

Acting on the recommendation of Police Chief Tina Goncalves, the City Council last week removed the section of Pawtucket’s streets and sidewalks ordinance prohibiting soliciting business while on streets or sidewalks.

“No person shall stand, walk or linger in a roadway, street or highway in the city of Pawtucket for the purpose of soliciting a ride or business of any type from the occupant or driver of a vehicle,” stated the previous ordinance. Everything is remaining in place except for “or business of any type,” meaning it is still illegal to hitchhike in Pawtucket.

Ordinance Committee Chairman Terry Mercer said the ordinance was put in place years ago to address the increasing frequency of panhandling in the city and trying to address the dangerousness of people being in intersections asking for money.

Long story short, he said, the rule would not withstand constitutional scrutiny as it’s an infringement on rights, as found in a recent court decision on a similar ordinance in Cranston, and it “made sense not to leave an item that was unenforceable.”

Goncalves had written to the council last month saying that the ordinance last amended in 2016 was found over time not to be enforceable. The ordinance has been considered for removal several times by the ordinance subcommittee, she noted.

“With the pandemic becoming a priority for the past year and a half and other pressing matters needing to be addressed immediately, I once again reiterate that this ordinance is not enforceable by the Pawtucket Police Department,” she wrote.

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