PROFESSIONAL begging is on the rise across Bournemouth and police are warning members of the public not to hand over food or money.
It follows a number of complaints in Westbourne about begging and anti-social behaviour in recent months.
Now Sergeant Sophie Williams (inset) has written to Westbourne residents warning them about “professional beggars” and advise on what to do if approached by them.
In her letter she said: “Professional begging is where people who are housed obtain charitable donations from the public.
“We are seeing a stark increase in professional begging across the borough.
“Could I politely request that you do not provide subjects with money or food. This falls outside Bournemouth council’s homelessness strategy and by doing this you are enabling them to continue their behaviour, which, on occasion is linked to anti-social behaviour impacting local residents.”
Sgt Williams also explained that police were able to arrest individuals for begging - but that they needed public support which means reporting it to the police and also providing a statement.
It comes as traders in Westbourne have voiced their concerns about begging, homelessness and drug use in the area.
But police say they have been working with Bournemouth Borough Council to try and tackle these issues.
Kelly Ansell, head of housing and community enforcement at Bournemouth council, said: “We are aware of recent increased concern regarding street-based activity in Westbourne and continue to work closely with a range of agencies to address this.
“This includes Dorset Police, the Rough Sleeper Team and enforcement teams as well as residents and businesses.
“The council has invested resources in additional security patrols in the area, which will target this activity.
“We always seek a proactive balance between the use of enforcement measures and the offer of support to vulnerable individuals.”
Meanwhile Lia Martin, chairman and director of Westbourne Business Association, said that as a result of the multi-agency approach she has seen an “immediate decline” in anti-social behaviour.
She said: “The council’s enforcement teams who have committed a permanent presence in the area, and the support of our local neighbourhood policing teams including our new Sergeant Sophie Williams, we have been very successful at dealing with this problem and have seen an immediate decline in anti-social behaviour in Westbourne.
“Whilst there is some limited anti-social behaviour in Westbourne, it’s important to stress that this appears to be a national issue.
“Traders in Westbourne have sought the advice of the council’s enforcement teams on how best for the public to deal with beggars, by advising the authorities of those affected so they can be offered help through the various routes available.”
Anyone who witnesses someone they believe to be begging is asked to report the matter to police by calling 101 or online at dorset.police.uk/do-it-online.