29 beggars ‘moved on’ in Leeds city centre crackdown

A beggar pictured in Trevelyan Square, just off Boar Lane
A beggar pictured in Trevelyan Square, just off Boar Lane
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Nearly 30 people were found begging in Leeds city centre in a one-day crackdown.

Police, council anti-social behaviour officials and outreach workers took to the streets following repeated complaints from the public and businesses about begging outside shops, at cashpoints and near the railway station.

They spoke to 29 beggars who were given advice about services for people who are homeless or who have addiction problems before being moved on.

Coun Mark Dobson, the council’s executive board member for Safer Leeds, said the numbers had decreased significantly since last year, when there were regularly 80 people begging in the city centre at any one time.

He said: “A key part of our approach in the city centre is, firstly, to engage with people who are begging – to highlight what assistance is available – and, secondly, to target  those individuals who are preying on the good nature of the public and asking for money when they have absolutely no reason to do so.

“We simply will not tolerate anyone who has decided as a lifestyle choice to beg, and they can be assured that every power at our disposal will be used to put a stop to it immediately.”

As well as speaking to beggars, the authorities are running a ‘Think before you give’ campaign, urging the public to donate to charity rather than directly to beggars .

Supt Sam Millar, who runs Safer Leeds, said giving to beggars could backfire by funding their addictions and discouraging them from accessing support.

“Many beggars are known to support services, have accommodation and receive benefits but choose to stay in this negative lifestyle because they know people will give them money,” she said.