The news comes following a concerted campaign effort from Exeter Council to tackle begging in the city, which started last September.
Superintendent Chris Eastwood said: “Neighbourhood police officers will be providing a visible presence in the city and working closely with partner agencies to address the issue”.
Begging is a criminal offence, and the Council and police force’s combined plans are becoming more strict with the growing belief that the majority of Exeter’s beggars are not actually homeless. Instead, they use begging to make up to £80 a day to fund drug and alcohol addictions.
The growing problem of beggars targeting cash machines is affecting students out in the city centre particularly badly, as Exeposé reported in September. A female student told Exeposé: “I am used to being asked for money in my hometown, and assumed that perhaps this wouldn’t be as much of a problem in Exeter as it’s such an affluent area. I’ve actually found it much more of a problem here, and felt particularly intimidated when I was asked by a group of a few homeless men for money, whilst I was trying to withdraw money from the cash machine outside Sainsbury’s. This has now happened to me on three occasions, and most times I’ve been lucky enough to be accompanied by friends who have intervened. When I was on my own, however, I was genuinely worried that I was going to get mugged, and I think people demanding money whilst others are trying to withdraw from a cash machine can feel very threatening. I am now much less likely to withdraw money on my own, especially in the dark”.
The Council recommends that people wanting to help genuinely homeless people in Exeter should donate to local charities rather than handing money over. Exeter police suggest avoiding cash machines at night, particularly those near to Arena and Timepiece.
Chris Rootkin, VP Welfare, commented: “I fully support the Council and the police in targeting illegal begging activity in the city. If any student has been made to feel unsafe in Exeter, please get in touch with me”.
Jon Jenner, Editor