Police have revealed Somerset residents are being conned out of hundreds of pounds every day by ‘organised beggars’.
Avon and Somerset Police have described organised begging as a “lucrative” con which involves “false stories and fabricated circumstances”.
The Wells Neighbourhood Policing team have issued a warning to residents after seeing an increase in the organised criminal practise on Wells High Street in recent weeks.
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The team described how the “affluent” city is being targeted on a regular basis, with criminals “taking advantage of people’s good nature”.
The Mendip policing team noted that while Wells residents have an “open mind” to begging, which is illegal under the 1824 Vagrancy Act, they have now put in place a three stage process to combat the issue of organised begging.
The three stages consist of a verbal warning, a written warning and finally an arrest. The initial warnings will also include information on where they can receive support.
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Officers described an instance prior to the national lockdown, when a man was given three warnings in relation to begging, during which the force offered support on where he could receive food, shelter and healthcare.
A spokesperson for the Wells Neighbourhood Policing Team noted their final warning resulted in arrest and when taken to custody, officers found the man had over £300 in cash.
The force spokesperson stressed that the neighbourhood team will continue to support those in genuine need.
They said: “Some homeless individuals choose to live this way, some have this life forced upon them due to circumstances beyond their control, but these people are part of our community and are treated with respect and offered any and all support we can offer.”
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