Police charge 17 people in Norwich begging crackdown
- Credit: PA
Police in Norwich have stepped up patrols over the last four weeks to target those found to be persistently begging following a number of complaints from businesses and members of the public.
It is an offence to beg under the Vagrancy Act 1824 and police said officers would issue a formal warning to those found begging.
But persistent offenders would be arrested and face being summonsed to court where they will receive a fine.
Chief Inspector Nick Paling said: 'Trying to address the issues associated with begging can be complicated and there can be a common misconception between street begging and homelessness.
'Work to address this issue started in response to concerns made by businesses and members of the public regarding the aggressive nature of begging and the anti-social behaviour it brings.
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'Officers have spoken to people on 150 occasions in the past four weeks in relation to begging, leading to 17 people being charged and one person summonsed to court.
'Norwich city centre should be a place where people can go to shop and do business without fear of intimidation or harassment. We will not tolerate this kind of behaviour and we will take robust action against those who continue to commit such offences.'
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Norfolk Police said they had worked closely with Norwich City Council and partners in the voluntary sector over the last couple of years to tackle the issue of begging and as a result it was found that the majority of people begging in the city centre were not homeless and had access to accommodation. Many were also in receipt of benefits.
Chief Inspector Paling added: 'Beggars can earn anything between £50 and £150 on the streets but what many people do not realise is that this money in spent to fund their addictions to alcohol and drugs.
'We will be continuing with these patrols in the run up to Christmas and our advice to members of the public who do want to help is to donate to one of Norwich's several charities and organisations, including St Martins Housing Trust and The Salvation Army that can help people and make a real difference.' An investigation by this newspaper has found the number of rough sleepers in Norwich is on the rise.