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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 October 2005, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Anti-begging scheme 'a success'
Beggar in street
The scheme hopes to break the drugs, crime and then prison cycle
A homeless project targeting beggars has been hailed a success after figures showed a 52% drop in the number of rough sleepers in Reading town centre.

In an attempt to tackle persistent begging, the borough council launched a scheme in June 2004, diverting people into treatment and housing programmes.

They also urged residents to give cash to the Reading Single Homeless Project.

The council said of the 20 persistent beggars identified in June 2004, 15 of whom were drug users, 16 no longer beg.

Superintendent Dilip Amin said: "The strategy has put in a number of measures to tackle the issue of on-street begging, making it clear it will not be tolerated, but that police and their partners will do what they can to help those who wish to help themselves."

Nine of the original 20 are currently housed and nine are undergoing drug treatment at Bowman House, a local authority spokesman said.

Five have also been identified as no longer needing help from the initiative.

A council spokesman added: "Head counts undertaken by the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership have identified an overall drop of 52% in the numbers of those identified begging in Reading Town Centre since June 2004.

"There has been a decrease of 75% in females begging in the town centre and a decrease of 40% in males."

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