City patrols after rise in begging and street drinking, police say
- Credit: Archant
Queuing due to social distancing has led to a rise in begging incidents which see people encouraged to go to cash points to withdraw money, police have said.
People have been escorted to cash points to take out money in begging cases one or two times a week in Norwich since the start of lockdown.
They are being approached in queues outside banks and shops, which are more common due to social distancing measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sergeant Chris Clay, from Norfolk police, said: “It is an emotive and sensitive issue as often there are certain reasons behind the begging but we must also stop crime.
“We can understand both sides and are here to help both sides, while also protecting staff in shops and banks who have not dealt with this before.”
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Officers from Bethel Street police station in Norwich carried out patrols in the area on Wednesday, and will do so again on Thursday.
The patrols were organised following an upturn in the number of reports from members of the public and police officers of street drinking and anti-social behaviour (ASB).
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More than a dozen police officers, some plain clothed, will work alongside Change Grow Live, a health and social care charity, and Pathways Norwich, a service to prevent rough sleeping, during the patrols.
Inspector Graham Dalton said: “We are not heading out to get people nicked but to educate, which has always been our emphasis.
“We are not there to criminalise at all but, if vulnerable people are involved, to make sure they are accessing the support they need while also reassuring members of the public and being visible.”
Mr Dalton said there were no hot spots in Norwich for ASB, but added it normally takes place in parks and spaces away from roads like most crimes.
The number of ASB incidents also plummets in the evening partly because the night time economy is still shut, or closing earlier, due to coronavirus.
On action taken towards offenders, Mr Dalton said: “It depends on the situation and if the person is a repeat offender. We have an escalation system in place where people have two warnings.”
Mr Dalton added the most common crime following ASB is low level assault.