Police tackle problem of Barnstaple street beggars

Joseph Bulmer

The public are advised not to give them money, but to donate to support charities instead

Police in Barnstaple are cracking down on street beggin after receiving complaints from members of the public and shopkeepers about anti-social behaviour associated with begging.

Some shop owners and businesses are saying it is having a detrimental effect on their business and individuals say they sometimes feel unsafe and intimidated.

Complaints include persistent and aggressive begging by a few individuals who use the town centre to harass people into giving them money.

The police are collecting evidence where possible and taking appropriate action against these individuals, ensuring appropriate support services are in place for them.

A multi-agency meeting has been held and these groups will continue to meet while the problem continues so that the right support remains in place.

Police are working with Safer North Devon, the North Devon Council Homeless Outreach worker and local support groups to tackle the issue.

Some individuals have been reported to court, some warned and some have been entered into the Antisocial Behaviour escalation process. The police are using all tools available to them to apply the most appropriate process to each situation as it arises.

Officers are concerned that giving money to beggars in the street could perpetuate the issue. There is evidence that shows that some of the individuals currently using the town area to beg use the money they receive to fund their addictions to alcohol, drugs and/or gambling.

PC Lucy Skinner said: “Barnstaple is in the fortunate position of having charities and support agencies that ensure every weekday that food is available at no cost to individuals on low income. We would ask members of the public to donate their money to these charities rather than individual beggars in the street to ensure donations are used in a positive manner.”

Should you be concerned or feel unsafe after having been approached by people asking for money then you are asked to contact PC Lucy Skinner at Barnstaple Police on 101.

PC Skinner said: “Every individual who begs has a reason and I’m taking the time to ensure that every person I deal with for this offence has access to the appropriate support services for them.”