Give to support agencies, not the beggars, say Hawke's Bay police

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Hawke's Bay Police Sergeant Nigel Hurley said police want people to spend their money with support agencies who can help people in begging situations.
Hawke's Bay Police Sergeant Nigel Hurley said police want people to spend their money with support agencies who can help people in begging situations.

The charging of Hastings man Frank Lovich for fraud after a begging incident in Napier comes in the wake of a police centre request on its Facebook page for people not to give money to people seen begging in the Napier CBD.

Lovich was convicted of fraud after claiming to be homeless when he was not.

He pleaded guilty by audiovisual link to the Hastings District Court to 16 charges which revolved around him going to the Bay City Plaza Mall last November where he held up a sign begging for food, shelter and money, claiming he was homeless.

According to a summary of facts, Lovich is paid $380 a week by Work and Income, and has a home in Hastings.

He is scheduled to reappear in April for sentencing.

The Facebook message had been posted by the Police Centre on behalf of the Napier Community Prevention Team as reports of begging began to rise since the beginning of summer.

Hawke's Bay Police Sergeant Nigel Hurley said patrols had warned several people "engaging in this behaviour" through the last few months after they had set up in the CBD and at shopping centres.

The beggars were advised that it was against current city bylaws.

Mr Hurley said it was a last resort for police to charge a person for breaching such a bylaw but said there had been reports of intimidation and abuse occurring.

"We deal with these criminal matters as they occur and encourage anyone who sees this occurring to call police in the first instance."

Mr Hurley said police were aware than many people felt they wanted to help such people, but added that the best way to do that was to donate their money to agencies that could provide care and help to them - "instead of filling their cups".

As well as working in with people they came across begging police had also worked in with social agencies and service groups who could provide assistance.

He said police were also in continual contact with retailers and if called about someone seen begging would respond "as quickly as we can" and move them on.

Mr Hurley said police had spoken to one man who had once been on the begging trail and he told them a lot of it went on purchasing synthetics.

Another person had approached police and said he saw a man who had been begging putting money into a gaming machine a short time later.

"If you are going to give money then give it to the people who can help them," Mr Hurley said.

One retailer spoken to, who did not want to be identified, described the appearance of someone begging near his shop as "an annoying nuisance".

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