Leeds street begging crackdown launched

People in Leeds are being urged to give to charity instead of to beggars as a new crackdown on begging is launched.

Leeds City Council said it was working with West Yorkshire Police and other organisations to stop aggressive beggars demanding cash from passers-by.

Begging for money was a crime and should not be supported when charities were ready to help, the council said.

Some beggars in Leeds were not genuine rough sleepers, said Peter Gruen, deputy leader of Leeds City Council.

"There are some people who will beg for food and drink, but the vast majority will beg for drink and drugs," he said.

'Massive impact'

Under the Vagrancy Act of 1824, which is still on the statute books, it is an offence to sleep on the street or to beg for money.

Instead of giving money to beggars, people should give to organisations which help the homeless in Leeds such as St George's Crypt, St Anne's Community Service and The Big Issue in the North Trust, said Mr Gruen.

Ch Insp Steve Palmer, from West Yorkshire Police, said while he understood that some people were genuinely seeking help, others had chosen begging as a "lifestyle choice".

"We'll be out there cleaning up the streets of Leeds and making sure those who are aggressively begging are brought to book through anti-social behaviour legislation."

Colin, who has been begging on the streets of Leeds for about three months, said while he never directly asked for money, he had seen others acting aggressively to passers-by.

"I'll just put a hat down and if they want to give me money they do. I won't ask them because I don't think it's fair," he said.

"But there are a few people who try demanding it off people and I don't agree with that at all."

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