Knives out for Porirua beggars
Porirua is mulling a ban on beggars amid fears that synthetic cannabis use is making the city’s panhandlers more violent.
Mayor Mike Tana said he would ‘‘do what it takes’’ to stop escalating tensions between retailers, shoppers and people who beg outside Cannons Creek Shopping Centre in the city’s east.
‘‘If zoning it out is going to be the only option then that’s what we’ll do. We’re looking at it now,’’ he said.
Whether Porirua City Council would make a city-wide bylaw, trespass people begging for money in Cannons Creek or make a ‘‘begging zone’’ was not yet known, he said.
Wellington City Council considered, then discounted, a begging bylaw in 2016, but Auckland’s bylaw passed in 2013.
Cannons Creek constable Andy Alexander said a ban would be good news for police.
‘‘Begging is the bane of our life and goes hand in hand with synthetic cannabis use,’’ he said.
‘‘We have the mirror image of the Auckland issue [synthetic drug users begging for cash] down here - that’s what our fear is.’’
Seki-A Super Value Supermarket owners Gurjeet, Prithpai and Deep Singh said a person begging was threatened with a knife and a woman robbed last weekend.
Police couldn’t confirm the incident, but Prithpai said it wasn’t uncommon for violence to explode outside his shop.
‘‘A guy’s mum was harassed for money and the guy turned up to stab the beggar. Someone will die.
‘‘We’ve seen [the beggars] knocked out, but they ... come back, they don’t care,’’ he said.
The Singhs said their business had suffered as children were hustled for their lolly money and customers stayed away.
Another business owner, who didn’t want to be named, said police were helpful but council needed to step in to help its business community.
The people begging were often around until midnight, he said.
Last Tuesday, a man begging for money said he had a right to be there.
‘‘I use the money for syns [synthetic drugs], I’m not hurting anyone by asking them.’’
When he was given food by wellmeaning members of the public he tried to return it to the shop in exchange for money, he said.
On Friday, a shopper at the centre said the begging was bad for the community as well as business.
‘‘If the shops close we’ll have nothing here in Cannons Creek. They could ruin it for us all.’’
Sergeant Matiu Grant said despite a decrease after last year’s campaign to discourage them, beggars had returned over the holiday period. Intimidation or heavyhanded tactics should be reported to police immediately.
‘‘As hard as it is to say no sometimes, do not give your hard earned money to people begging for it. There are other options for them to get the assistance they need.’’