Officials in a Long Island village are proposing legislation to make aggressive panhandling a crime as local residents and business owners cite troublesome encounters at the LIRR station there.
"Just coming up to people, bothering them when getting a ticket from the machine and sometimes running after them, tapping people on the shoulder," Dennis McGrath said at the Mineola LIRR stop Wednesday.
Convenience store owner Rahima Hossain showed damage outside her shop that she says was done by a panhandler.
"They're bothering all the time, since I open the store at 4:30 or 5:00 until closing," she said.
The proposed legislation by Mineola village officials defines aggressive as "intentionally or recklessly making any physical contact, or approaching within an arm's length except with a person's consent."
The executive director of Long Island's Coalition for the Homeless calls the legislation unnecessary, saying panhandling in Mineola isn't a problem.
"I think that it is criminalizing the homeless, penalizing people for being poor," said Greta Guarton. "They're just trying to do something to push folks out of their community."
Village officials weren't available for comment, but the legislation says solicitation in certain public places is inherently intimidating or constitutes an invasion of privacy.
"They only ask," said Guarton. "That's what I see people do."
One man who was collecting cans from a Mineola trash can said that asking for help shouldn't make anyone a criminal.
"As far as I can tell, it's no crime at all," he said. "No evil in that."