Boston’s New Rules to Curb Aggressive Solicitors


Looking to curb aggressive public solicitors, Boston banned solicitation in places such as bus shelters, parking lots, and within 10 feet of an ATM or financial institution.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino pushed for the city’s soliticitation rules to be updated and created a task force with police, neighborhoods leaders, and emergency personnel to stop solicitors from doing things like walking up and down traffic lanes.

“This measure does not (just) go after homeless people, but also aggressive solicitors,” said District 6 City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who led a recent hearing on the issue as chair of the Government Operations committee.

O’Malley, as well as other city councilors, including District 8’s Mike Ross, wanted to make it clear the changes were not criminalizing panhandling or homelessness. 

Specifically, solicitation was banned at the following: bus shelters, bus stops, parking lots or garages, sidewalk cafes, a line waiting to be admitted to a commercial establishment, or in a crosswalk. 

Language was changed to also ban solitication within 10 feet of an ATM, facility entrance or exit of a bank, or check cashing business.

“This isn’t a homeless matter, this is people taking advantage of a gray area of the law and asking money from every day citizens,” said Ross. “(This is) not the poor soul on the side of the street asking for funds. This is people really pushing the limit, and not asking for money, but demanding money from every day commuters… and when you say no you get asked by a second or third person…”

District 4 Councilor Charles Yancey asked whether the updated ordinance bans people from handing out flyers in public, such as candidates.

O’Malley said he asked the same question during a Feb. 19 hearing, and added, “This seeks to prohibit who could be someone to themselves or others, darting in and out of traffic. (This could be) people selling flowers or newspapers in between lanes, (which) would be prhobited. Handing out flyers would be allowed and protected by the freedom of speech.”

Regarding the homeless, O’Malley said that Pine Street Inn personnel testified they were 100% in support of the legislation. Included in the new language is a mechanism to collect data and analysis to increase outreach to homeless and link them to non-profit partners to help them.

What do you think of the crackdown on aggressive solicitors? What areas do you have problems with aggressive solicitors in the South End? Tell us in the comments. 

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