Wrexham's Poorest Criminalised – Beggar Belief

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  • #148797

    Matt
    Participant

    New initiative launched to “combat issue of begging” in Wrexham town centre

    Now it is my understanding that begging has been a legal grey area for a long time – technically not legal but rarely enforced – there’s the Vagrancy Act 1824 and the implementation of a PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) over Wrexham town centre that also technically makes nuisance activities such as begging illegal.

    However, this latest initiative smacks of Victorian style cruelty and bullying of the poor. Wrexham Council, North Wales Police (whom I have been pretty supportive of in the past) and the other third sector agencies should all hang their heads in shame for creating this “hostile environment” for homeless and vulnerable in Wrexham.

    How is this going to deter begging? – If you are that desperate that you have to resort to begging in the first place then you don’t really have many other choices in life. If someone tells you that you can’t continue the very desperate act that keeps you fed (and yes some people use the money to buy drugs, but they’re going to seek for ways to pay for their addiction by hook or by crook anyway) you are hardly going to stop and then roll over and die. It is mentioned that begging hotspots will be targeted – what’s that beggars get moved from 1 spot? They move to another spot, so the hotspot continuously changes. When town gets less homeless/addict friendly they just move to the Rhosddu Park and if they crack down there, there’s countless places for them to congregate around Wrexham – it’s a literal game of whack-a-mole. Also, if someone tells you that you are going to go to court for a Fixed Penalty Notice and you have 0 income then you are just going to p*ss yourself laughing & think it’s just a jolly day out to court. With no threat of jail (you can’t throw people into debtors prison for failure to pay a fine – although they wish they could to complete the Victorian throwback conditions) then they’ll be leaving court to go out begging again.

    Resources wasted on assessing homeless credentials of beggars – The very idea that they are expecting council/police investigative powers to be wasted on assessing if beggars on the street have “benefits/homes” etc… to pay a fine is farcical. We all know, zero people begging on the street are going to be like “It’s a fair cop – I’ll duly pay my fine” – at the very worst case, even if they have a fixed abode and bailiffs come round to claim the money, they are going to let them in and say look I don’t have a single asset worth seizing. It is also a classic propaganda technique currently being used up and down the country to desensitise regular people from the homeless plights by painting all beggars as actually not homeless and in receipt of luxuriant benefits and labelling them in the dosser/scrounger category instead. This is a twofold denial of there being an actual homeless problem in the first place and then stereotyping all beggars as effective “parasites” on society who are doing it as a con-trick rather than through no choice of their own. Again, any media outlets (not aimed at Wrexham.com – we know any context they mention is in direct quotation of official sources) or local authorities churning out this line are completely shameful.

    Push into worse crime – This falls into the basic lines of criminal economics – If you are constantly being told you can’t beg and this is preventing you from making your required £££ to get your daily fix, what are you going to resort to next? Instead of being a low level nuisance, some people having to feel uncomfortable because they are being asked for money whilst splurging their cash out on trivialities. Some people are going to end up being robbed and mugged instead and there will be an increase in shoplifting. The Wrexham Town Matters precious crew are going to be up in arms when instead of homeless sat outside their beloved shops begging, they are helping themselves to the store’s inventory instead and they are forced to fork out from increased shoplifting losses and paying for more store security guards. Stopping begging is not turning Wrexham into a safer place to shop I would suggest it would become less safe.

    Encouraging Wrexham Citizens/Business Owners to Turn Snitch – It’s one thing to be a good citizen and do your civic duty and stand up in court if you are witness to a genuine crime and someone needs bringing to justice. But you have to ask about the consciences of those who are happy to turn up to court either as a shopper in town or a business owner and gleefully dob someone in for asking for money in a desperate situation. I think anyone who does needs to take a long hard look at themselves in a mirror and hope that they don’t end up in a situation like that where they rely on strangers to determine whether or not the fate of their lives gets just that little bit worse. Even if you don’t like beggars/druggies and wish they were not present, it would take a certain level of callousness to stoop to be complicit in social cleansing activities.

    I’m not sure what the answer is but I don’t think it’s this – whichever side of the supportive/not supportive of homeless camp you fall into.

    #148798

    Andy
    Participant

    Has there been a law change recently?

    People are often imprisoned for non-payment of fines. For some it can be failure to pay a fine for a TV licence offense.

    #148799

    Matt
    Participant

    Has there been a law change recently?

    People are often imprisoned for non-payment of fines. For some it can be failure to pay a fine for a TV licence offense.

    You can go to prison for flat out refusal to pay a fine or certain priority debts (e.g. Council Tax) – You literally have to say something like “I refuse to pay this money because I don’t think I should/agree with it”. Or your lifestyle indicators point otherwise – e.g. you turn up to court in a Bugatti (exaggerated example).

    However, you can’t go to prison for genuinely not being able to afford to pay and the courts actually have to find evidence/proof that you can do have means to pay – hence the use of bailiffs and seizure of assets. This is why debts and fines get enforced by other means – e.g. attachment of earnings, charges on properties etc…

    This is not the case in the US, where in some states you have no choice but to serve jail time if you can’t afford to pay a fine, which is the modern equivalent of a debtors prison. There was something on it on the BBC.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-43916040/why-does-the-us-still-have-debtors-prisons

    #148819

    Matt
    Participant

    Rob, is there any indicator over which actual named authority figures in the council/police/third sectors are actually behind this initiative?

    As the North Wales Police Crime Commissioner Arfon confirmed on Twitter that he does not approve of it, so you have to wonder who is actually calling the shots and what their justifications are.

    I think this needs to be sent for full council scrutiny as it doesn’t stand up as a faceless multi-organisational homeless swatter with nobody really knowing who is pulling the strings.

    #148846

    JaneJ
    Participant

    This is about visual image – NIMBYISM Not in my backyard- there is an assumption that the beggers are causing a nuisance – visually they may not look good for the town but how many people have actually been assisted by any of the beggers – for most they are more of a trip hazard as they sit on the pavements.

    This sounds like a Council response to complaints about retailers — not seen any beggars around Ty Pawb yet ( I wonder if it is becsie there is so little footfall it is not worth their while to hang around the doors).

    #148861

    Matt
    Participant

    Well the round-up and criminalisation of homeless has begun, complete with a brag on social media and a hashtag that gives the disbelief that the entire town is behind this type of action.

    Still unclear who is calling the shots behind all this.

    #148875
    Alunh
    Alunh
    Participant

    It absolutely breaks my heart to read some of the comments above, especially about the Nimby mentality. It also concerns me that people are questioning who might be complaining about the various issues of begging on Wrexham’s streets. The simple answer to who is pushing for something to change on the begging issue is a mixture of people from across the community and many traders within the town. Just to address Matt. Every person I talk to is concerned about the homeless issue, poverty and associated problems. That said, when like me they put their body and soul into opening a business and are confronted day by day with a variety of issues, many too unpleasant to outline, then it is natural that they want to see things improve in the town. Many of the traders stump up a huge amount of money to run a business in town, pay high levels of Rates, and hope that are given a fighting chance of surviving as businesses. The common factor at the moment amongst many of those pressing for a change of policy is that if things don’t change, they will close. Many have already closed.

    #148887
    dagg
    dagg
    Participant

    Well the round-up and criminalisation of homeless has begun, complete with a brag on social media and a hashtag that gives the disbelief that the entire town is behind this type of action.

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    Still unclear who is calling the shots behind all this.

    What do you want this initiative to do, if my business or customers were affected by these people I would complain.I agree some of these people need help but some of them are a pain.

    #148888
    dagg
    dagg
    Participant

    Apologies, something went wrong with my reply.

    #148889

    Matt
    Participant

    Alun, I completely understand that there is persistent nuisance behaviour that is carried out by those that fit into a “vagrant” profile that should not be tolerated around local business areas or anywhere residential, such as shoplifting, public defecation/urination, discarding of used needles, aggressive and threatening behaviour etc… Those are all clear criminal actions that can harm other members of the public and can be dealt with accordingly like they have done so in the past using ASBOs and town centre exclusion orders. Nobody should have to put up with anyone behaving in a nasty and intolerable way. There’s no disputing that.

    What I don’t agree with is the new hard hitting zero tolerance approach where in theory someone who is sat quietly outside a shop and is hungry and thirsty is asking for food or money just to stay alive – they are committing a crime, can get taken to court, given a criminal record & fined.

    I know there are a million different theories on homeless from all being druggy fix hungry scum who reject food to (I heard this one today and it made me laugh) a group of professional beggars who make an absolute killing from Wrexham’s affluent and overflowing footfall town centre are that they live in detached houses and drive BMWs! But if you get down to basics some people will be begging to survive not through choice. And like I said before if the single option of begging is criminalised they will turn to worse crime to get money instead as in the eyes of the law they are a criminal anyway.

    Dagg, as I have mentioned above – I primarily disagree with the being arrested and taken to court bit (if they are just peacefully begging). Moving them on, or taking them to a shelter/soup kitchen would be a more humane thing to do.

    In terms of me asking who is behind what? As Arfon confirmed he disagrees with the whole thing then I want to know who else I can follow this up with as there are no named decision makers. Was it the Exec Board? Town Police Inspector? Etc…

    This will al lead to trouble for the town. Some others more upset than me have already gotten in touch with the press/Channel 4. So it’s only a matter of time before it all blows up.

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