Leicestershire Police are advising shoppers heading into the city during the Christmas period to not give to beggars, but instead give to charity.
Central Leicester Neighbourhood Policing Commander, Inspector Simon Preston, is urging people not to give money to beggars but to donate to local charities who work to get people off the streets.
Street begging can cause antisocial behaviour issues for businesses and people in the city. Street begging tends to increase in the run up to Christmas, but most people are not aware that begging is illegal.
Sergeant Perry from the city centre neighbourhood team and students from De Montfort University and Leicester College have produced a video demonstrating the most common type of street begging incidents reported to the police.
Inspector Preston said: “Our observations tell us that street begging increases at this time of year and there are people that beg in the city that have drug or alcohol dependency and are not actually homeless.
“Many people don’t realise that street begging is illegal and the reality is you don’t know where the money you give is going. We often have reports of beggars aggressively targeting elderly members of the community and also causing antisocial behaviour.
“If you want to help people who are genuinely homeless in Leicester we would suggest that you donate money to the local charities who can offer support to those in need.”
Leicester City Council has an outreach team, which goes out on a daily basis looking for rough sleepers, and offers help with accommodation and support for those with problems with drugs and alcohol.
During the winter months the council is also working with the Leicester Y Support Project, One Roof Leicester, and the British Red Cross to offer extra bed spaces at the council’s Dawn Centre.
Every evening volunteers will be helping to prepare a hot meal at the centre, where medical and mental health services are also available.
Councillor Andy Connelly, assistant city mayor for housing, said: “Help and support is available for rough sleepers in the city. Most of the people who are regularly begging in the city are not homeless.
“I would urge anyone who wants to help people who really are homeless to buy a Big Issue, or give a donation to a local charity such as The Y, Shelter or Action Homeless.”
On the run up to Christmas the police will be tackling persistent and aggressive beggars and directing those in need to partner agencies who can help and support them.
Local homeless charities include:
- One Roof Leicester
- Community of Grace
- The Y Support Project
- The Bridge Leicester
- Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland
- Action Homeless