Redress vital as begging spikes
A bylaw banning begging in Porirua is being considered as a way to combat an increase in incidents of youths accosting shoppers and asking for cash.
Kapiti Mana police area commander inspector John Spence met with Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett on the issue last week.
Mr Spence said the number of complaints to police concerning street beggars in central Porirua and Cannons Creek – particularly groups of kids, often near ATM machines – had increased in the past 12 to 18 months.
He said a bylaw would give police ‘‘teeth’’, to make arrests and possibly issue fines, but was still in the ‘‘ early days’’ of consideration.
‘‘I’ve had an initial discussion with the mayor and chief executive about trying to bring this to a stop.
‘‘ A bylaw is being looked at by the officials in council.
‘‘We’re bringing the facts and figures together.
‘‘It’s one option to try and address this . . . At the moment, as soon as police come around, they disappear.’’
Mr Leggett said he has been hearing the message from the community, and not just in the central city, of cases where people were being intimidated by beggars.
‘‘There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before anything happens, we need discussion in the community.
‘‘I want to know the extent of the issue, not just anecdotal evidence. If it is getting worse we have to consider the detrimental effect on the retailers and the wider community.’’
Eastern ward city councillor Wayne Poutoa is adamant, from his own observations and residents’ feedback, that begging is on the rise and a bylaw is necessary.
‘‘I know it’s hard to monitor but it gives the people a right of reply. They’d not feel pressured to do this [give money] because it is illegal, and they can report it to police.’’
As well as being bad for business – upsetting both shopkeepers and the customers who are preyed upon as soon as they leave the store – Mr Poutoa is afraid the more prevalent begging becomes, the more it may be viewed as a legitimate vocation.
He described some beggars as ‘‘professionals’’ who could make up to $100 a day.
‘‘The last thing I want is for people to see [begging] as an option.’’
Eric Jones, manager of Canopy Connection, which represents the interests of CBD retailers, said begging was an issue they have been discussing for some time with police and the council.
If police were seeking a bylaw, other methods clearly were not working, he said.
‘‘For most it is just annoying, but for some it can be intimidating. Some people are abused when they tell them [beggars] they don’t have funds to give away.’’
Reports from retailers and feedback from their customers showed the situation was getting worse.
‘‘You’re going to be put off coming here if someone is asking for money while you stand over a money machine.
‘‘There were always one or two people with mental health carers doing it, but now there’s groups of youths.
‘‘People should be able to go about their business without being approached.
‘‘We don’t want to see people keep away from the city centre . . . We want to see that sort of thing stopped.
‘‘Whether this [a bylaw] is the best way to try and do that, I don’t know.’’