BEGGARS in Leamington remain a nuisance.
Following complaints from shoppers and businesses, the police have been issuing anti-social behaviour notices to those regularly begging for money in the town centre.
Those issued with notices cannot return to the town for 24 hours after being cautioned.
One beggar who did was arrested as a result, charged and bailed to appear in court.
Warwick District Council, Warwickshire Police, The Salvation Army, BID Leamington and the Royal Priors Shopping Centre re-launched their ‘Killing with Kindness campaign’ in the summer, urging people to give money to homeless charities rather than directly to those begging on the street.
The campaign aims to eliminate begging in Leamington which has increased dramatically in recent years, and which is also believed to fuel drug and alcohol addiction.
Jonathan Chilvers is the leader for the Salvation Army Way Ahead Project and champion of the ‘Killing with Kindness’ campaign.
He said: “We would strongly encourage people to buy a Big Issue rather than give to those begging. Anyone begging in Leamington can sign up to sell the Big Issue and those that do are self-employed business people earning a profit as well as developing skills and giving back.
“Someone begging in Leamington can receive up to £80 per day, whereas someone working by selling the Big Issue rarely makes close to that, so please support them.
“The Salvation Army are open on Christmas Day and in partnership with the Helping Hands charity will put on a traditional Christmas meal for over 30 people who are rough sleeping or sofa surfing. As through the rest of the year, we will love and care for each person unconditionally no matter what they’ve done, but will also support and challenge them to move forward with their lives.”
The Green Party county councillor is also encouraging people not to ignore beggars but offer them a hot drink, something to eat or even have a conversation with them.
Sgt Allison Wiggin of Warwickshire Police said: “For several years the issue of begging has been consistently raised as a priorty.
“Leamington police are trying to look at the bigger picture, by working with Warwick District Council, the Salvation Army, BID and the Recovery Partnership to try and address the beggars’ needs.
“The aim is to help and support these people into a better life style, where they are not reduced to begging on the streets. Prosecuting them is not a solution, but neither is giving money; that is why the Killing with Kindness campaign was started.”
The district council is currently drawing up a two year Homelessness Strategy in a bid to tackle the problem over the next two years, with priorities focused on providing suitable accommodation and effective help and advice.