Begging crackdown ‘causing mistrust’

An “audit” of beggars in the City of Westminster has been condemned
by a homelessness charity as creating a “culture of mistrust and

The joint operation between Westminster Council and the police last
weekend was intended to “disrupt” begging in the area.

The council had estimated that there were as many as 300 beggars in
Westminster, but only 27 people were arrested over two evenings at
the weekend.

Council officers, including parking attendants and street
environment managers, worked in collaboration with the police, who
were then able to arrest beggars and take their fingerprints and

The council said the information gathered during the audit would
help to provide evidence in the pursuit of antisocial behaviour
orders against persistent beggars.

But homelessness charity Crisis criticised the operation.

A spokesperson said the audit would criminalise some of society’s
most vulnerable homeless people and create “a series of additional
barriers for people wanting to escape homelessness for good”.

She added: “Using enforcement against them is totally inappropriate
and creates a culture of mistrust and suspicion.”

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