A police operation aimed at reducing the number of people begging in the Square Mile saw over 100 people getting help with housing and health problems.
The City of London Police launched Operation Luscombe in June to try a new approach in tackling begging and helping people in need.
Police teamed up with charity St Mungo’s, the NHS, the City of London Corporation’s homelessness teams, and the Westminster Drug Project to offer support for people spotted by police.
Councillors were given an update on the first three months of the scheme at the launch of its new homelessness and rough sleepers committee on 6 September.
People seen begging at hotspots including Bishopsgate and Moorgate were told to go to intervention hubs set up around the City to get help. Beggars who were seen again were given Community Intervention Orders.
Councillor Benjamin Murphy, who represents Bishopsgate, said: “Giving out 123 notices in three months shows how big a problem we have in the City.”
Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Sub-Committee made meaningful progress in redefining multi-agency service offering today. Members also signed up to experience what it’s like to experience services through the eyes of those they are designed to help. pic.twitter.com/tiPI6l7BGD
— Ben Murphy CC (@benjmurf) September 6, 2018
PC Russell Pengelly added: “It’s an intervention, saying ‘we would rather help you than hinder you going forward’.”
He explained that begging is on the decline in the City, but councillors wanted to know if begging gangs were operating in the Square Mile.
“It is on a small scale,” said PC Pengelly, who added that it can be “quite lucrative” for people travelling in to beg and can generate “in excess of £150 a day.”
One beggar in Pimlico in Westminster was earning £350 a day, he added.
Chief inspector Jesse Wynne, from the police’s community team, said: “Our ultimate goal is to offer appropriate assistance to those sleeping rough and to help them through working closely with our partners. Effective prevention and support services should mean there isn’t a need for enforcement by the police.”
Eight beggars who refused to get help were excluded from the City and parts of neighbouring Tower Hamlets for several months.
Bishopsgate, which is near Liverpool Street Station, and Moorgate are the main begging hotspots in the Square Mile.
The areas around Eastcheap and the Monument, Cheapside and Aldersgate Street are also common places, according to City of London Police.
Most beggars are men in their 40s, and although the numbers are decreasing there do not seem to be seasonal trends, such as during the peak tourist season.
A City of London Police report said “it is not considered conducive to the long-term welfare of those begging to receive money from passers-by” to spend on high strength alcohol or drugs, which cause a “rapid deterioration in their health”.
People can be caught up in a vicious cycle of begging to fund their addiction and money dissuades them from accepting help from outreach services to get off the streets.
Committee chair Marianne Fredericks said the public are generous and their support needs to go to “people who are vulnerable and need that help.”