A crackdown has been launched against people begging on the streets of Chester city centre.
Cheshire Police and Cheshire West and Chester Council say travelling criminals target the city, particularly on big event days, to mislead well-meaning folk who believe they are giving money to homeless people.
It is claimed the scammers are earning up to £400 per day.
Inspector Barry Brown, from Cheshire Constabulary, said: “We’re working closely with the council and partners to tackle this problem. Officers from our Beat Team and Anti-Social Behaviour Unit in Chester will engage with beggars on high profile event days and will advise of the potential penalties and the consequences of their actions.
"Repeated or aggressive begging will lead to arrest and people could be permanently banned from entering Chester.”
Cllr Angela Claydon, cabinet member for housing, said: “The council will not tolerate people misleading others for financial gain. We have heard stories of these people earning up to £400 a day, particularly during high profile events.”
She added: “We are highlighting this type of activity so that the public understand the problem and won’t be deceived by those who have a place to live begging in the city. If you would like to help the homeless please can I ask that you give your money direct to one of the many local charities in the city.”
Cllr Robert Bisset, who is also CEO of Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH) said: “I fully support the crackdown to deter people begging in the city. I would discourage anyone to give to beggars as the likelihood is that any money given would not be spent in their best interests.”
The Labour council came in for criticism back in 2015 when it announced plans to fine rough sleepers and people begging within a designated area called a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) but dropped these elements following a public consultation.
Instead the council said it would be ‘working with vulnerable people, the homeless, those that are begging’.
One anonymous beggar, who wished only to be called ‘Nick’, told The Chronicle at the time: “You need to find the root of that person’s problem whether it be drugs, alcohol, mental health or if they just need a helping hand.”
Nick, who claimed to he homeless, added: “Because I won’t lie, when I had my house, my wife, I'd walk on the street, sometimes I’d walk straight past people in doorways, sometimes I’d get a feeling it was genuine or it wasn’t. Now I’ve been on the other side of the fence I’ve got a lot more empathy towards whoever that person may be, because it’s not nice and it is hard.”