Over the past few months officers in Chester have noticed an increase in the number of beggars who have been targeting the city centre, leading to the launch of an operation to help tackle it.
PC Ben Jones, Beat Manager for Chester City Centre, said: “Begging is a criminal offence; it has a detrimental impact on the City and there has been increasing reports to the police and council from businesses, residents and visitors who are affected by this behaviour.
“Chester is a prosperous city, and it is well known that people from outside of the area often travel to the city, purely to beg, and then return to their home towns.
“We also know that there are strong links between begging and the misuse of controlled drugs, such as heroin and crack cocaine, and often the money acquired from begging is spent on drugs and alcohol; which all has a detrimental impact on the city.”
PCSO Paul Downey, added: “I patrol Chester City Centre on a regular basis and I often see people who are intimidated by those presenting themselves as homeless when in some cases they are not, which can have an adverse effect on the local area.
“I also regularly engage with business owners in the area who in recent months have spoken to me about in increase in the number of people begging in the city centre, and talk to me about the negative effect that this has had on their businesses.”
As part of the operation Chester City Beat Managers PC Ben Jones and PC Ed Flaherty targeted locations known to be frequented by beggars, taking positive action against people who were found begging; this including advising them of support services that are available.
PC Ben Jones added: “Throughout this operation we engaged with a large number of people, the majority of whom were compliant and grateful of the advice and support we were able to provide, such as advice on how to access emergency accommodation, state benefits, and health care including drug and alcohol support services.
“Unfortunately a number of people failed, or refused, to engage with officers which resulted in 17 arrests. Of the people arrested, 15 either had a flat, a house or resided in one of the local hostels. And of the 15 who had homes, three were from outside the Chester area. Ten of those arrested also tested positive for use of prohibited drugs.”
PC Ed Flaherty, said: “Throughout this operation our overall aim has been to proactively support people who are in genuine need.
“Chester is a beautiful city, and we want to ensure that both residents and visitors to this historical city are able to go about their business without the fear of being confronted by beggars.
“I urge people not to give money to beggars as this money is often used to buy illegal street drugs. Instead, money should be given to local charities that provide accommodation and support to help people who are actually homeless, helping them to rebuild their lives.
“Following the success we have seen during this operation we will continue to work with our partners to support homeless people, ensuring that those who are in need are provided with the help and the support that they require.”