'Drugs and defecating in the streets' - 22 'naughty beggars' are target of crackdown in Hartlepool
An initiative launched to clampdown on aggressive begging in Hartlepool was fuelled by reports of sightings of those involved “defecating in the streets and injecting drugs in public”, council chiefs have said.
However councillors on the Audit and Governance Committee warned they must make sure they support those who truly are homeless and in need of help.
Nicholas Stone, council neighbourhood safety team leader, said at the meeting there are ’22 persistent beggars’ operating in the town centre.
He said: “Don’t always take at face value what your eyes are telling you. There’s a lot props used, as in a dirty sleeping bag, that seems to be shared between everyone who clocks in and out of that pitch that day.
“Unfortunately a lot of those individuals are people who are being aggressive and acting in an unpleasant and anti-social way.
“We’ve had complaints regarding verbal abuse in general, verbal abuse when food is given rather than money, threatening behaviour, injecting drugs in public, urinating in public, defecating in public.
“They’re targeting cash machines, car parking ticket machines, entrance and exits to shopping centres.”
He also said there had been situations where elderly people have asked people from nearby businesses to accompany them to a cash point due to concerns.
Mr Stone said everybody spotted begging has been offered support from officers for housing, claiming benefits and substance misuse issues, but none have accepted help.
He added out of the 22 individuals ‘five or six occasional sleep rough’ but none of them are permanently rough sleepers.
However Coun Brenda Harrison stressed they must ensure those who are truly homeless still get the help they need.
She said: “We’ve got a situation where we’ve got naughty beggars, who are doing what they shouldn’t be, but my worry is the genuine cases.
“There are genuine people who you might think they are not accepting help, but there is a reason why they don’t, they are mixed up people. I hope they don’t get missed.
“There are genuine people who are homeless and really need help, but it’s difficult to help because they don’t accept it.”
Police Community Support Officers from Hartlepool Neighbourhood Policing Team believe some of the begging is organised, with some individuals making up to £50 in a day.
Hartlepool Community Safety Team is proposing to use legal powers to try to curb aggressive begging, but says it also needs the on-going support of members of the public.
It is suggesting people make donations to charities, including Hartlepool Foodbank, instead of giving to beggars.
Anyone wishing to raise concerns about aggressive begging can call Cleveland Police on 101 or speak directly to members of their neighbourhood policing team.