The independent London newspaper

Street beggars are often in organised gangs

21 March, 2019

• THERE has, rightly, been tremendous discussion and concern about what can be done to alleviate allegedly homeless street dwellers and the detritus they leave behind, but there is another side to the story.

A lady recently wrote to you drawing attention to the fact that the supposed homeless and destitute street beggars often found locally are in fact the product of organised gangs which meet at Warren Street station and are handed out their bits of cardboard with the same wording “I am very hungry – God bless you” and then go to appointed pitches, (Beware bogus beggars, January 4).

There are regulars outside Belsize Park station, in Hampstead High Street, at Hampstead station and I even encountered one recently in the King’s Road Chelsea. It is obviously highly organised and no doubt contributes to drugs funding and dealing.

It is also significant that often, when social workers try to help and offer beds for the night, these are often refused because the beg­gars make more money from street dwelling and sympathetic passers by.

The same applies at tube stations. For example, they are at the foot of the steps to the platforms at Leicester Square and at the entrance there and to so-called “homeless” who travel on the tube begging.

I saw one beggar outside Leicester Square pick up his gear around 11pm and go down the steps and through the barriers to the platform!

Despite announcements that begging is illegal staff seem to make no effort to move them, and Transport for London tell me it is a matter for the BT police.

If so why don’t the staff contact them and do something about it instead of making pointless announcements? I have been very aware of this for some time, and I feel the same as the lady who wrote to you.

I don’t know how anyone can improve it, while the profits they make go towards drugs, unless the scourge of confidence-trick begging is made illegal with enforcement action and restrictions such as compulsory hostel boarding.

But that requires hundreds of additional beds in additional buildings and it seems some would just refuse to go there.



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