Don’t be taken in by beggars - Kate Firman, Peterborough Safer Peterborough Partnership

Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

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You may have seen a newspaper article last week about our “most eccentric” rough sleeper, Valerie, who spends her nights sleeping in Peterborough City Centre. As stated in the article, this lady has been offered support but chooses to live this way. As she does not break any laws by begging or behaving in an anti-social manner she is left to continue with this lifestyle choice.

However, some people who frequent the city centre do choose to beg and we have to consider using a 
different approach with them.

In the Prevention and Enforcement Service we regularly review who is frequenting the city centre and causing problems by begging and other anti-social behaviour and agree on any action we can take to reduce the issues.

If you want to help those who beg in Peterborough I would ask you not to hand over any money, however small the loose change, but instead to donate to registered organisations like the Winter Night Shelter (this is an invaluable service which runs from 12th December - 12th March and offers accommodation, a hot meal and support to anyone who is homeless in Peterborough). These organisations can supply the support needed, whether that is food and clean clothes, or help to come away from drugs and alcohol addictions.

Four myths about begging:

1) Everyone who begs is a rough sleeper - Not true, the majority of people begging in Peterborough either have accommodation or have been provided with housing support and advice but have declined the advice and support provided.

2) There are no services in Peterborough for people who beg - Not true, there are a wide range of services working together in Peterborough to help get people off the streets. These include charities, faith groups, health and treatment services, as well as the council.

3) People who beg need money for food - Many of those begging in Peterborough will use money to feed an addiction. Charities exist in Peterborough offering free food to those in genuine need.

4) It is ok to give food instead of money - If you give food, money that may have been saved for a meal can be diverted into feeding an addiction. If you want to give food, donate it to a local charity.

You can report begging to us by calling 747474 (council) or 101 (police) so we can consider taking enforcement action.

The offence of begging is:

“Contrary to section 3 of the Vagrancy Act 1824 and section 70 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 in a public place, street, highway, court or passage …to beg or gather alms.” This can be dealt with by way of an arrest and fine.

We have also obtained a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) on one person who causes issues in the city centre by begging, the terms of which include conditions not to beg and not to cause harassment alarm or distress to anyone in Peterborough City Centre.

Longer term we are planning to use a power under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Publication of PSPOs) Regulations 2014 to place a Public Spaces Protection Order on the city centre with conditions including, “no begging – not to make unsolicited and/or unauthorised requests for money (whether expressly or impliedly requested by conduct) in a public place from persons not known to the perpetrator.” This Order will be going out to public consultation before being put in place, hopefully in the New Year.

We need to be a city where this type of behaviour is not tolerated and we will be able to achieve that with your support.