BEGGARS from outside South Tyneside are preying on the good nature of the borough’s shoppers, research reveals.
The public is being warned not to give money directly to beggars on the street in the run-up to Christmas.
South Tyneside Council is working with the police, public health professionals and community groups to reduce begging and street drinking in South Shields.
They are taking a dual approach to the issue, with help being provided to vulnerable individuals so they can get the support they need, but those causing a disturbance face enforcement action.
The agencies came together following concerns being raised about drinkers congregating around St Hilda’s Church and in the Marine Parks, as well as about several individuals begging in King Street.
Thanks to the partnership’s intervention, there has been a reduction in the problem, with several vulnerable individuals seeking help and finding housing and tackling addiction.
However, research found that some of the others choose to spend much of their time drinking in the streets of South Shields town centre despite having no links to the borough.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “With the cold weather beginning to bite, we are continuing to do all we can to reduce this problem.
“This involves preventing vulnerable individuals from ending up on the street in the first place, helping those in need of shelter and taking action against those engaging in alcohol-related anti-social and criminal behaviour.
“Unfortunately, there are beggars who prey on the good nature of the people of South Tyneside, and with more shoppers visiting the area over Christmas, we are asking the public to be mindful that giving money direct to beggars means they are more likely to continue a life on the streets.
“There are dedicated local support services and charities doing positive work with these groups of people.
“This issue cuts across a number of services, from public health and community safety to anti-social behaviour and housing, so it is important that we are all working towards the same goals.
“We are committed to addressing the underlying issues and dealing with the complex problems that lead to people living this way.”
Enforcement action also continues with the council using new powers to deal with anti-social behaviour more effectively, as well as working with the police to hand out direction-to-leave and dispersal orders.
Inspector John Smith, of the South Shields neighbourhood policing team, said: “The aim of the partnership work is to identify those causing an issue and to take action, both with enforcement where appropriate and ensuring that people, who are, in some instances, very vulnerable, receive the support they need.
“Most people begging and street-drinking need support of some kind, and by working with partners, we can help put them in touch with the correct support to get the right help.
“The activity has so far been successful, and we’ll continue to make sure South Shields town centre remains a safe place for people to shop and socialise.”