Business owner fears street-savvy beggars scaring Wellington shoppers away

By Solbin Kang

A Wellington business owner fears the rise of aggressive "street-savvy" beggars will drive his customers to shop elsewhere.

Newtown, Wellington business owner David Wilcock said there was a rise of "street-savvy" beggars on the streets approaching passers-by, especially vulnerable locals such as the elderly.

"It's getting worse and evolving. We see people getting more street-savvy and more brazen in the way they approach people as well."

This meant businesses were losing money as people were "put off" being confronted by beggars.

He said beggars were congregating around Newtown shops.

His two teenage daughters also feared going to Newtown shops by themselves.

"It's not so bad when the person holds out the bowl, holding out a little sign.

"But it's when the person approaches you and confronts you. What if you are an old lady or someone vulnerable?"

He said an elderly woman gave two beggars money because "she wanted to get rid of them".

" ... brazen individuals who won't take no for an answer.

"They get angry, agressive and confrontational."

He said beggars often lingered around the front door of shops and "got angry" when told to move on.

When police were called, beggars "slinked off" elsewhere.

He said the Newtown community felt "let down" by police.

"We only see police when we call."

He said beggars with "anti-social behaviours" needed to be controlled.

"Why can't we have a begging ban?"

"I believe it will have a significant impact in protecting our communities."

The author of a council commissioned report into begging, Mondy Jera, said Wellingtonians weren't "desensitised" by people asking for money on the streets.

Rather, they were concerned, the study said.

"Some people said they felt unsafe and some said it's not a good look for Wellington.

"Some people like to give [money] but aren't sure if it's a good idea but don't know what else to do."

She said begging was a complex issue.

They could be involved in criminal activities and other anti-social issues such as leaving rubbish behind, public urination.

"Beggars receive money but it does nothing to change those circumstances."

Interviews with beggars revealed they admired Wellington and found the city generous.

Most made $20 to $40 over a long session, she said.

Wellington City councillors will this afternnon debate the issue, including whether to ban beggars in parts of the city.

- NZ Herald

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