Asbos used to rid streets of beggars

Police and council work together to clampdown on street beggars.
Police and council work together to clampdown on street beggars.

Blackpool Police are clamping down on beggars in the town centre by using Asbos.

Officers gather evidence of people who persistently beg and then work with Blackpool Council to secure a criminal anti-social behaviour order – or Crasbo – which bans the person from certain areas of the town centre.

The issue of vagrants begging has been made a Police and Community Together (PACT) priority for police in the town centre.

One man who sleeps on the streets says he can earn £70 a night at the weekend

Jason Newton, 38, beds down in public toilets or phone boxes with his sister, Nicky Williams, when there is no room in town centre hostels.

He said: “We go begging around town. On a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night we can get £70 a night. I spend the money on food and alcohol – it keeps us warm.”

PCSO Liza Riley, who works in the town centre, said: “Begging is an issue that has been raised for some years. Initially a group of agencies worked together and went out in search of the beggars to offer services to help with the issues they have that make them turn to begging.

“We had agencies offering help in relation to drug and alcohol addiction, help towards mental health problems and housing problems.

“After a while it became apparent the majority of those who were persistently begging were either already receiving that help or they weren’t interested in the help available.

“After consultation with Blackpool Council we decided we needed to start putting something in place to prevent reoffending.

“I gather evidence of those persistently and aggressively begging.

“The council then puts the evidence to the courts in order to secure a criminal conviction for begging. If they persist then I obtain further evidence and we then apply for an Asbo on the back of the next conviction, otherwise known as a Crasbo.

“This has proved to be a successful approach.”

A Crasbo was issued to Martin Rhodes, 27, last year after he frightened shoppers by demanding cash.

Rhodes was convicted of four counts of begging, between December 2009 and February 2010. He received a £140 fine.

The order, which will remain in place until July 20, 2012, prevents Rhodes from entering Blackpool town centre, being in possession of an open container of alcohol in Blackpool, begging, or using threatening, insulting, abusive or disorderly words or behaviour.

PCSO Riley added: “This has been successful in that when he does offend there is a harsher punishment and therefore spends time in prison.”

Anyone who would like to report an issue of begging should contact END OF THE ROADBlackpool Police on 0845 1253545.