Is kindness being taken for weakness in Greerton?

It certainly appears so.

Retailers this week shared their horror stories of dealing with 'begging gangs' which have established themselves in the once vibrant, safe shopping centre.

The incidents outlined to the Tauranga City Council were alarming and included allegations of the elderly being bullied into handing over medication, customers being accosted at ATMs, fights breaking out in front of shop doors.

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One shop owner is considering moving his business as customers and employees felt threatened. He had taken to storing a hockey stick in his shop because he was so disturbed by the situation.

It paints a picture of a township under siege.

One of the critical problems in addressing the situation appears to be the subjective nature of what accounts for intimidating behaviour.

One person may find someone approaching them and asking for money to be non-threatening, others may find it a frightening experience. Police say it is difficult to prove intent to intimidate - of the 36 related calls to Greerton so far this year, in only 20 per cent of cases was a criminal offence alleged.

Just as subjective is how we define who is in genuine need and who is not.

The council is doing all it can to address the situation: Four new CCTV cameras have been installed, two security guards are now patrolling the area, it has launched a campaign to discourage giving to beggars and has brought forward a bylaw review to look at adding anti-begging legislation.

So what more can be done?

Ultimately, in my view, it will come down to visitors in the area closing their wallets to those asking for money.

If no money is given, then there will be no incentive for the beggars to congregate in the area and it is likely they will move on, or better yet, seek help from social agencies.

This might not solve the broader social problems that accompany this issue - and the problem might move elsewhere - but at least Greerton will have its village back.