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Beggars will be arrested

BEGGARS in Huddersfield will be arrested by police - then offered help and advice.

BEGGARS in Huddersfield will be arrested by police - then offered help and advice.

The new scheme is intended to get to the heart of the problem rather than just temporarily clearing them from the streets.

But police warn that persistent or aggressive beggars will be taken before magistrates.

They say they want shoppers to be able to visit the town without fearing they could be targeted by beggars using the intimidating tactics seen in some towns.

Up to now, people caught begging in Huddersfield have been given a first warning and told where to get help. But the onus was on them to seek help - and none did.

Now police are arresting all beggars and, depending on their needs, they can be referred to the National Children's Centre or the newly-opened Whitehouse Centre in Huddersfield, a health centre for vulnerable people.

There, they will be given advice on housing, drugs, alcohol, debt and benefits problems.

They could also be given help for medical or psychiatric problems.

This referral is an alternative to charging them with an offence.

Sgt Alan Rhees-Cooper, of the Huddersfield Police town centre team, said: "This time they are under an obligation to seek assistance which is motivation for them to tackle their problems.

"Anyone found begging is being arrested, brought into the police station, then released on police bail.

"They are informed it is their responsibility to attend an appointment at the Whitehouse Centre before their bail is cancelled.

"We are trying to address the problem rather than taking a heavy-handed approach."

Sgt Rhees-Cooper stressed the scheme was not a soft option.

He urged the public not to give money to beggars.

Their generosity can often compound the problem and encourage beggars to stay on the streets.

"Professional" beggars who prey on people's kindness can earn £15 an hour.

"A few individuals use the money they get to buy drugs or alcohol to sustain their habit," said Sgt Rhees- Cooper.

"We want to offer help and advice to the genuinely needy but we will take firm action to prevent intimidating or aggressive beggars and persistent offenders.

"Huddersfield is considerably better than most towns and cities of a comparable size. We want shoppers to visit the town in safety and without fear."

The scheme brings together workers from the medical, financial and benefits sectors.

Since it was launched a week ago, five people have been arrested.


Doug Thomson
Huddersfield Town correspondent
Chris Roberts
Huddersfield Giants correspondent
Louise Cooper
Crime correspondent
Nick Lavigueur
Health Correspondent
Joanne Douglas
Local Government Correspondent
Linda Whitwam
Education Correspondent
Henryk Zientek
Business Correspondent
Martin Shaw
Mirfield Correspondent