One of the most sought-after locations by panhandlers in all of Greater New Bedford now sits empty on a sunny summer afternoon.

Oh, how times have changed.

Back before the 2020 presidential election, the COVID pandemic and rabid inflation grabbed all of the headlines, New Bedford's panhandler problem was the talk of the airwaves on WBSM.

Barry Richard/Townsquare Media
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media
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While panhandlers became an issue at many busy intersections in New Bedford – including the famed "octopus" intersection, the bottom of Union Street at Route 18, and the intersection of Route 140 and Route 6 – it seems much of the listener ire was focused on one particular intersection in the near North End.

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The panhandlers competed for space, sometimes rather loudly, on the traffic islands at the lights on Coggeshall Street near the entrance to Market Basket. Some would perch on the smaller island across the street between the on-ramp and off-ramp to I-195.

Once Popular New Bedford Intersection Abandoned By Panhandlers
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media
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The frequent calls from citizens intimidated by aggressive beggars and the daily rants of your humble correspondent led the administration of Mayor Jon Mitchell to install what became known as "spiked cobblestones" on some of the more active median strips to try and discourage panhandling.

It didn't work.

Once Popular New Bedford Intersection Abandoned By Panhandlers
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media
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The panhandlers seemed to go away on their own, though – at least on Coggeshall Street.

"We have also noticed less panhandler activity in that area," New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira told me. When I asked why that might be, and Oliveira replied honestly, "Couldn't tell you."

Oliveira said police "are constantly engaging the panhandlers and offering services."

Once Popular New Bedford Intersection Abandoned By Panhandlers
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media
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While the panhandling problem on Coggeshall Street seems to have taken care of it itself, Oliveira said that's not the case elsewhere.

"No, I wouldn't say that," he said. "We're still seeing them elsewhere."

The "octopus" and the intersection of Route 140 and Route 6 still draw panhandlers daily.

"We're not giving up," Oliveira said. "We're going to keep trying to get them to agree to get the help they need."

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