A mayor has complained that her prosperous Devon town has become a magnet for begging tourists who police claim could be earning up to £35,000 a year.
I hate to say it but we have begging tourists, she said. They are coming in from other places and actually spoiling it for our local people.
There is no need in Totnes for anyone to go hungry. They should not feel in any way scared. It’s obviously an ideal place for beggars to come to.
Police have confirmed that aggressive beggars have been harassing passersby in the town.
They said that beggars in the town raise up to £100 a day – the equivalent of up to £35,000 a year.
The local police said in a statement: Historically we have taken a fairly relaxed approach to persons begging on Fore Street and High Street.
As you know begging is an offence under the Vagrancy Act, however we have shown a degree of discretion due to the very low level, friendly, passive begging style.
Typically, beggars in Totnes are raising between £50 and £100 a day. I heard one individual bragging that he raised £139 a few days ago.
Our approach in maintaining the status quo coupled with how attractive it has become to beg in Totnes, has drawn others from further afield who have brought with them their own begging style.
We have received reports of shoppers being aggressively harassed for money, followed up the road, abused, threatened with violence and intimidated at cash machines. We will not tolerate this and our stance has now changed.
The police say money given away to beggars might not be spent in the way it was intended to be.
The police continued: A lot of the beggars in Totnes battle with some form of addiction. Also, many may appear homeless. They are not.
Most choose to live as they do and often return to their accommodation at night. Readily having money to buy heroin does nothing to encourage an addict to change their lifestyle.
Police denied this was a begging crackdown but said they will enforce the law to stop aggressive begging.