A police operation to tackle aggressive begging across Birmingham city centre has been hailed a success. Officers in the city centre have been working alongside officials from The Big Issue to identify illegitimate sellers of the magazine and other aggressive beggars while providing help and advice to the homeless. Since Monday (1 August) officers have arrested and charged a total of 13 people for begging related offences.
The team has also referred 11 other homeless individuals to helpful organisations including housing associations and substance misuse organisations. As a result of these referrals, three homeless people have been granted official status as sellers of The Big Issue. This will enable them to sell the Big Issue and make a small profit that can be used to hopefully turn their lives around.
Working alongside The Big Issue officials, police were able to identify and speak to 12 legitimate sellers. These sellers were very supportive of the initiative and explained to officers how aggressive begging from false sellers can have a negative affect on their own sales and image in the city centre.
As an additional bonus for legitimate sellers, officers have secured £120 from the Police Property Act fund*. This will be used to gift each of the sellers with 10-20 free copies of the magazine. They will then be able to sell these on and make a profit of up to £40.
Birmingham city centre Police Inspector Andy Bridgewater, said: “This is a fantastic operation that offers a win/win situation for the people of Birmingham. Increased enforcement has resulted in 13 aggressive beggars being taken off the streets of the city, while legitimate sellers of the Big Issue have been able to get support and assistance. We have also been able to work alongside Big Issue officials to point other homeless individuals in the right direction in order to gain help, support and advice. As stated on the sleeve of each issue, police funding should give legitimate sellers ‘A hand up, not a hand out!’ We will continue to crack down on aggressive beggars while at the same time recognising the challenges faced by those less fortunate in society.”
* The Police Property Fund is a result of the sale of property which has been in the possession of police for more than 12 months. In recent years the Fund has been used to benefit local charities, pay costs to third parties for the storage of bulky or valuable property, compensate individuals who can prove their property has been wrongly sold and contribute toward the cost of administering the property.