Police back stricter rules for beggars

By Andrew Koubaridis

Top city cop says wider powers would help officers curb anti-social behaviour

A crackdown on beggars in Auckland has the support of police, who believe it could reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

In a submission to the Auckland Council on the review of bylaws on public safety, Inspector Gary Davey, Auckland City police prevention manager, said police supported stricter changes in some areas.

The begging issue is being debated by council, with an initial draft of the bylaw banning asking for money or food "in a manner that may intimidate or cause a nuisance".

After public feedback, commissioners appointed by the council then recommended all begging be banned.

Mr Davey said it was the police view that council should be the lead agency in dealing with beggars, though police would provide support.

He told the Herald that police dealing with some of the lower level offending was like "trying to break a nut with a sledgehammer".

Bylaws allowed police to deal with some of the public nuisance behaviour without involving courts, where "no one wins", he said.

"The other thing is there is no point fining a person that is begging. You have to really put some thought into what sort of punishment and sanction you want to put into that."

The submission said charges could still be laid when the begging became aggressive and frightening.

Mr Davey said there was a link between begging and crime, particularly property crime in the CBD.

"What we do know is a lot of those homeless people - not all - are committing a lot of our property crime in the inner city so what we find is they're doing some burglaries, they are breaking into cars, stealing purses, stealing phones, that sort of thing."

He said some beggars spent money on alcohol, and their behaviour worsened later in the day when they were under the influence of alcohol.

"That's where I think you need some of those bylaws to make sure you deal with that aggression and violence. And they shouldn't be intimidating members of the public whether it be in their cars for window washers or begging."

An Auckland Council spokesman said they received an average five complaints a month, while in Manukau there was now increased levels of between two and three a month.

The Salvation Army's head of social services, Major Pam Waugh, said people who begged often saw it as their only option. Ideally, the church wouldn't want anyone begging, because it was demoralising.

Find help

If you are or know someone who is sleeping rough and needs help, call the Salvation Army on (04) 384 5649 or the Auckland City Mission's central city office on (09) 303 9200, or its Otahuhu office on (09) 276 5022.

Additional reporting: Amelia Wade

- NZ Herald

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