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Wauwatosa passes ordinance aimed at curbing panhandling

Posted at 10:46 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 23:53:09-04

WAUWATOSA — Wauwatosa passed a new ordinance prohibiting people from standing in the medians of many of the city's busiest intersections.

The ordinance passed the Common Council 11 to 3 Tuesday night. It was brought about for safety purposes, according to the ordinance’s author. Many council members cited recent injuries and complaints about panhandlers increasingly using medians for the reason to move forward with the ordinance.

Wauwatosa council member Matt Stippich said, “I see this as another one of those issues that we don’t like what we see in the intersection and we are asking the police to take care of it.” Alderperson Allison Byrne said “there was a car accident already and I do think this is a mental health issue and a safety issue.”

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Wauwatosa’s new Police Chief, James MacGillis, said he supported officers having options to deal with the issue. “We in law enforcement have to have something in our toolbox to ensure public safety, but it cannot be just taking people to jail,” said MacGillis.

Advocates for the homeless in Milwaukee County had urged the council to defeat the new ordinance. They said the tickets, which can range from $25 to $500, would likely go unpaid and exacerbate the problem.

“If they have a ticket, they can’t pay, and they end up with a bench warrant, let’s say - that gets in the way of a landlord accepting them generally,” said Eric Collins-Dyke, Milwaukee County’s Assistant Administrator of Supportive Housing and Homeless Services.

The ordinance names 12 specific streets, namely the city’s largest intersections, including: North Mayfair Road, West Blue Mound Road, West North Avenue, Watertown Plank Road, West Burleigh Street, West Capitol Drive, North 124th Street, North 68th Street, West State Street, Wauwatosa Avenue, North 92nd Street, and Harwood Avenue.

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