Public urged to shun Exeter's 'intimidating' beggars
A HARDCORE of people begging on the streets of Exeter are intimidating shoppers and clubbers, according to city council leaders and police.
Council leader Pete Edwards said a survey by the authority identified a small group of persistent beggars and appealed to people not to give them money.
He is writing to police urging them to take a proactive approach to tackling the problem.
Cllr Edwards said: "Giving them money is not helping them. It takes money away from people who have a genuine need. If people want to help the homeless then they would be better giving the money to St Petrock's. They are intimidating people and enough is enough.
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"I think the police should clamp down on them and I would like the police to do more in the way of community sentencing where, rather than put them in a cell, they say they will leave them alone provided they turn up for drug treatment.
"If they don't it is made clear to them that the police will pick them up the next day and put them in a cell."
Chris Hancock, the city's housing needs manager, said: "We have a small number of prolific beggars in the city. They tell people that they are homeless or that they need £15 to stay in accommodation overnight but this is simply not true.
"Begging they are making between £40 and £50 a day but this is feeding a drug habit.
"They have accommodation, they have benefits and are supported by people who are trying to help them learn to budget so that they can support themselves, but the extra money from begging means they are not making progress and is ultimately going to kill them."
St Petrock's project manager Mel Hartley said: "It is our view that by giving direct to charities, people can be assured that their money is used in a positive way, whether it be to support people into accommodation and/or help with immediate basic survival services such as food, clothing as well as washing.
"Money given to people who are begging does not always help that individual, it may even make their situation worse and delay them seeking appropriate help."
Andrew Webber, local policing inspector for Exeter, said: "There is no easy solution to this but the public needs to ask themselves what is this person going to use the money for.
"Giving money is just perpetuating the problem – people complain about people begging in the streets and yet they give them money."