Police want better powers to deal with beggars in Welsh city centre.
A public consultation has been launched on measures to tackle anti-social behaviour in Newport which could see a blanket ban on begging in its city centre.
The city’s council is looking to update its Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which was put in place in 2015 to prevent individuals and groups from committing anti-social behaviour in the city centre.
The order sought to prohibit street drinking, touting for services and donations, aggressive begging, fly-posting and dogs not being kept on a lead. A breach of the order could result in a fine of up to £1,000.
But now Newport council is considering a blanket ban on begging in the city centre after Gwent Police said the wording of the current order had proved “ineffective”.
Speaking at Newport council’s overview and scrutiny committee hearing on Monday, Gwent Police’s Newport city centre inspector John Davies said: “In regards to aggressive begging, there has been an enormous amount of interest. If you look at the PSPO, it’s how do you legally state that someone is acting aggressively.
“We’re reverting back to legislation from the 1800s when dealing with begging rather than having something which is a workable solution. To prove aggressive begging is something that is difficult.”
He added: “There are several strands to the begging issue. We have genuine homeless people. In the last count in November we had 18 rough sleepers and that increases coming up to Christmas.
“But when you start looking at the number of people who are begging who have homes but are using begging as a source of income, there’s a difference.
“I would say there’s a 50/50 split, 50% will be genuinely homeless and the other 50% will have addresses known to us in Newport.
“We’re working with the council and the Rough Sleepers group to give assistance to the people who are most vulnerable. The ones who don’t want to engage with us are using begging as a source of income and the PSPO will allow us to deal with that.”
This is a difficult subject but I am aware that are more and more professional beggars. We have recently just come back from a trip to Bristol we had for a few days and we were approached twice by quite aggressive beggars asking for us money. We do give to charities but personally, it is quite intimidating being approached in the street, especially, when we rarely carry cash anyway. One of these guys was sat more or less under the ATM outside a shop.