Fresh effort to deter beggars

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 21/02/2013

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The generosity of students is the next target of a continuing campaign to deter people from giving money to beggars.

The Give Wisely campaign was launched on December 11 last year by the Palmerston North Safety Advisory Board, which includes the city council and police, in an effort to discourage people from giving money to beggars.

Posters with the "Give Wisely" message were handed out to shops in Broadway Ave, around The Square and outside The Plaza, asking people to give to charities rather than beggars.

About 10 regular beggars were identified and, according to police, all of them were under the care of the welfare or mental health system or, in some cases, both.

There had also been continuing problems with intimidation from beggars in the city.

Begging is not illegal, and Palmerston North does not have an anti-begging bylaw.

Senior Sergeant Brett Calkin, of Palmerston North, said students were often the people approached by beggars.

Studies undertaken overseas showed students tended to be fairly generous, and usually gave some money if they had coins in their pockets, he said.

"We want new students coming into the city to be aware of the issue and give wisely," he said.

Massey University Students' Association president Steve Christodoulou said students were "generous in nature", but often struggled financially.

City safety co-ordinator Maria Prangnell said another pamphlet drop aimed at students would take place shortly, and the campaign would be ongoing.

The feedback she had received from Broadway Ave businesses, which had been worst-affected by beggars, indicated there had been some reduction.

She had not received as many complaints from members of the public about beggars, she said.

"If people don't give money, they won't be there."

Retailers in Broadway Ave said they thought beggars had been appearing less frequently, but two men who had always been regulars on the street continued to beg there.

Downtown manager Greg Key said it depended on the time of day, or day of the week when beggars could come out. The two men in Broadway Ave were not often seen on a Monday or Tuesday when less people were around.

He thought there had been an "immediate" effect when the campaign was introduced.

The intimidating behaviour that had been causing problems appeared to have dropped off and there were fewer complaints to him, he said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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