Begging increase a ‘priority’ for police

BEGGING has become a policing priority after residents and business owners reported a spike in the crime.

One beggar made £300 in two days amid an increase in offences in Worthing town centre in recent weeks.

Plain clothes officers will be running operations in known hot spots in an attempt to crackdown on incidents.

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Ian Richardson, chairman of Worthing Central Neighbourhood Panel said: “The neighbourhood panel have been made aware of the unacceptability of the harassment to shoppers and visitors by street beggars in Worthing.

“The panel would encourage the public not to give money to street beggars as on occasions this can end up being spent on alcohol rather then food and shelter.

“It also encourages further begging. If people wish to make a donation this can be done via Worthing Churches Homeless Projects.”

A rise in the success of beggars in obtaining money, often from vulnerable members of the community, has been blamed for the higher number of cases.

South Street Square has been noted as one of the key areas where beggars have been spotted.

Police said the crime can be difficult to tackle as perpetrators are unlikely to ask officers for money and the public often does not come forward to make statements, viewing it as a low-level offence.

But sergeant Craig Burgess, of the Worthing Neighbourhood Policing Team, said it can affect visitors’ views of the town.

He said: “Begging does have an impact on the community and the feel of the town. Over the space of a couple of hours, several thousand people can walk through the town centre, so it can have a big impact.”

Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said she had noticed an increase in begging and had been targeted herself.

She said: “We have seen an increase and one of the individuals is very plausible but making a lot of money out of the kindness of others.

“It is important people don’t give money as it just encourages more to do it and makes the situation worse.”

The town has a number of organisations to help the street community.

Worthing Churches Homeless Projects sits on the neighbourhood panel and is aware of the problem.

But Sue Stevens, speaking on behalf of the charity, said it offered many services, including a day centre to help those in need.

Other organisations such as Worthing Foodbank and Jubilee Church also offer support services.

She said: “To our knowledge, many of these people are not homeless. For anyone that is homeless or insecurely housed, our day centre, in Marine Place, is open at 9am every single morning.

“If you wish to support the local people in need we would recommend that you support one of these charities rather than give money directly to the individuals as we do not know what they will use the money for, whereas these charities can ensure they get what is needed most.”

Begging was made an offence in December 2003 as part of the Government’s drive to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

A number of organisations condemned the move, including the Lib Dems.