Beggars who knock on car windows in Manchester ‘may not be homeless’ warns top cop
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Giving money to ‘professional beggars’ in Greater Manchester, including those begging at traffic lights, makes it harder for police to help, a top cop has said.
Superintendent Ian Jones, who is responsible for the city centre, has asked the public to donate to homelessness charities instead of giving beggars money. An apparent rise in people begging at traffic lights, particularly on the city centre inner ring road, has been reported.
But speaking at a press conference about homelessness and rough sleeping on Monday (November 21), Supt Jones said some are not genuinely homeless.
He said: “We do have a lot of beggars in the city centre who aren’t homeless. Over the festive period, people are more willing to give money to people begging in the street. That makes it harder for us.”
Supt Jones said the police do not want to criminalise beggars, but sometimes need to arrest them if they are not willing to engage with the support offered.
However, he said beggars are not held in a prison cell when they are arrested. Two weeks ago, four people were arrested for begging in one morning, either because they were professional beggars or refusing to engage with the police, according to Supt Jones.
Another 14 were taken to the street engagement hub where they were offered suppport, he said.
He added: “Traffic light begging is a big issue for us. We’ve had a lot of complaints. There’s a lot of genuine people there who are begging, but that’s one of the main areas where we get what I call the professional beggars going out and targeting events, whether it’s football or concerts.
“They feel more intimidating because they knock on people’s windows. People complain more about that side of it.”
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said GMP have not always got the balance between enforcement and support right, but things are better now.
He said: “Not everybody who appears homeless is in fact homeless.
“The approach we take is not to criminalise first off, which some people might think is done.
“At the moment, the approach is a support first approach.
“That approach is embedded in the street engagement hubs.”
Mr Burnham encouraged people who want to help the homeless this winter to donate to homelessness charity Real Change MCR or the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity which supports rough sleeping scheme A Bed Every Night.