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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Crackdown on begging
Homeless person on street
Refusal of treatment for those in need will lead to arrest
People begging in Bristol face arrest if they refuse treatment for any problems of drug and alcohol abuse.

It is part of a drive to reduce the numbers of beggars in the city.

The Streetwise campaign is a joint initiative between the city council, the police, traders, churches and charities supporting homeless people.

There are believed to be 200 people who regularly beg in Bristol, including nearly 40 described as "persistent and aggressive beggars".

A council report claims that very few beggars - less than 10% - are genuinely homeless.

Fraudsters and tricksters

"Some beggars are fraudsters and tricksters who beg for money, falsely claiming they are homeless," the council said in a statement on Friday.


Begging has no place in Bristol

Councillor Claire Cook

Campaign leaders say the central aim is to get beggars off the streets and help those in need to secure a better future.

They say the majority of beggars have problems relating to drug abuse, and money they are given by well-meaning members of the public is almost always spent on drugs.

People are being asked instead to make donations to charities or through a recognised collection box scheme which supports homeless people.

Key Streetwise elements
Council-based co-ordinator
Street-based police co-ordinator
Out-of-hours police support
Specialist mental health worker
Outreach drug treatment
Arrest referral officer
More research

"Begging has no place in Bristol," said Councillor Claire Cook, the city council's neighbourhood and housing services executive.

"Our campaign is aimed at helping those beggars with drug and mental health problems to access a range of services which will enable them to sustain a life away from the streets.

Inspector Mike Cox, the police officer in charge of the city centre, said the number of beggars in Bristol had risen over the past year.

"Aggressive and persistent begging is unacceptable.

"We want to protect members of the public from those beggars who seek to exploit the good nature, generosity and kindness of local people," he said.
A beggar known as Scooter
Scooter says his begging "does nobody any harm"

John Hirst, the manager of Bristol's Broadmead shopping centre, said local businesses and shoppers had been constantly "harangued" by beggars.

"The majority of these people are not homeless - they are looking to support drug and alcohol abuse habits and need specialist help.

"By working with a range of organisations and charities we can direct those in genuine need to the appropriate services," he said.

One Bristol beggar, known as Scooter, told the BBC: "I'm doing nobody any harm sitting here.

"If people want to give me money they give me money - if they don't want to, they don't."


Click here to go to Bristol
See also:

20 Aug 02 | UK
25 Nov 01 | Education
23 Jan 01 | Education
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