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Town hall to focus on panhandling, safety downtown

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

As business owners, residents and councilmen prepare to talk about downtown safety at a meeting Thursday, Jan. 30, Councilman David Anderson, 4th district, said he expects the conversation to gravitate toward panhandling.

“Everybody’s rights have to be protected. I don’t want somebody prosecuted because they have nowhere to go,” Anderson said, recognizing federal court rulings that protect panhandlers under the First Amendment. “But, I don’t want people harassed just because they want to shop downtown or because they work there or own a business.”

Concerns over panhandling, loitering and crowds around liquor stores and bars, are nothing new for downtown businesses.

“The root of the problem is when we have the vagrancy, it causes a disruption in the storefronts,” said Tina Bradbury, Downtown Dover Partnership economic development and operations manager.

A meeting addressing these same concerns was held last year. Councilman Roy Sudler Jr., 4th district, said he hopes this week’s meeting will bring some solutions.

“We’re looking to move on some things,” Sudler said. “We can only do so much, but the real power is in the people.”

The meeting is open to the public at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers. Councilmen Sudler and Anderson will host with support from the Downtown Dover Partnership and Dover Police Department.

“I think there’s power in numbers,” Bradbury said. “When you have the group coming collectively, stating all our concerns, I think we’re heard together.”

She joined Sudler and Anderson in encouraging people to join in the conversation and share any ideas for change. “We also want them to come with some solutions with how we can all work together,” she said.

“We want to hear concerns, but we also want to hear solutions,” Anderson said. “If someone has solutions and wants to participate, now’s the time.”