A man has been banned from begging anywhere in Leeds after being found to have a house and benefits.
David Braithwaite, aged 43, of Hunslet, was given a Criminal Behaviour Order when he appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to twice breaching dispersal orders despite having a home and being in receipt of benefits.
Police said the begging was "aggressive" and persistent.
The move comes as a result of work by officers from Operation Leodis – a team funded by Leeds City Council to tackle mainly housing-related anti-social behaviour.
City centre residents, commuters and local businesses have reported feeling intimidated and harassed by those approaching them and, in some cases, people said they were too scared to go into the city centre as a result.
Braithwaite was identified as someone who had repeatedly refused to engage with support agencies. He had been begging in Bradford city centre since 2013 and moved to Leeds city centre in 2015.
Since the end of 2015, he has been spoken to about his begging activities on 35 occasions and has breached dispersal orders 15 times.
He was frequently seen reaching out to passers-by with a paper cup to ask for money and portrayed himself as homeless but checks later confirmed he lives at an address in Hunslet and receives housing benefit and employment and support allowance.
Chief Insp Nick Ireland, of the city’s community safety partnership Safer Leeds, said: “Helping those in genuine need on the streets of the city by seeing they get the right kind of support remains a key focus of the partnership work carried out by the police, council and third sector agencies under the city’s Begging Strategy.
“We look to proactively identify those who regularly beg on the streets and co-ordinate the work of all relevant agencies to help them and divert them away from begging. Unfortunately there are those that refuse to engage and persist in aggressive begging behaviour that has a detrimental effect on the lives of other people and on the individuals themselves.
“It is important that we take a balanced approach and our priority is always the wellbeing of the individual involved. Enforcement action is always the last resort and is only done when people ignore the offers of help that are available from a number of partner agencies.
“We hope this wide-reaching order will give David Braithwaite the incentive to engage and get the support he needs, and we encourage the public to assist us by reporting any breaches of the order if they do see him begging.”
Coun Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds said: “Working with partners we remain absolutely committed to providing meaningful support to anyone who is found to be homeless, rough sleeping or begging. This continues to be a key priority for us and we are working extremely hard to highlight the wide range of assistance, help and important services that are available in the city.
“We were however left with no option but to take action against this particular individual who has continued to persistently beg despite having a council tenancy and access to other support which means he has absolutely no need to ask the public for money. This is not acceptable and not something that we could allow to continue.”