Napier to start using security officers as part of council clampdown on beggars

Te Kāea

Maori TV interviewed the Napier beggars last week, when they complained about being treated like animals.

Security officers will soon be used as part of a council clampdown on beggars in Napier.

In an email to central city retailers on Monday, Napier City Council manager of community strategies Natasha Carswell said "we will implement a focused programme in the CBD that involves a security approach backed up by police when needed".

The missive followed a meeting late last week between senior council managers, police, the Hawke's Bay DHB and the Ministry of Social Development on the topic of begging in the city centre.

Three men have been charged with breaching a Napier City Council bylaw that forbids soliciting without a permit.
MARTY SHARPE/FAIRFAX NZ

Three men have been charged with breaching a Napier City Council bylaw that forbids soliciting without a permit.

Carswell said security officers from a security company would "provide a presence in the CBD and in Clive Square, in particular, throughout the day and night to ensure all of our community is able to safely access these areas".

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The council and police started taking a firm line on beggars earlier this year. 

Three beggars have been charged for breaching a council bylaw that forbids them from soliciting for money without permission. They have pleaded not guilty and go on trial next month.

Carswell said a new service aimed at assisting the homeless had been doing a good job, but there were still "a small number of people who are engaging in anti-social and low level criminal behaviour".

Emerson St, Napier, where the city's beggars sit with their signs seeking coins.
MARTY SHARPE/FAIRFAX NZ

Emerson St, Napier, where the city's beggars sit with their signs seeking coins.

"These people have been offered help to access housing and other support but continue to decline this help. They do have access to income support," she said.

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The new security approach will be implemented "within two weeks" with more information to be provided just before it was initiated, Carswell said.

The beggars challenging the council bylaw are Major Keelan,Turei Cooper and Myles Hemopo.

Hawke's Bay lawyer Alan Cressey will argue for the beggar's right to beg.
SUPPLIED

Hawke's Bay lawyer Alan Cressey will argue for the beggar's right to beg.

Their Public Defence Service lawyer Alan Cressey, said the nature of the challenge was "of utmost public interest" and involved fundamental human rights so should be heard by a judge.

In a memorandum to the Napier District Court,  Cressey said

"It will be submitted, as it already has in overseas jurisdictions, that to deny a person the right to ask others for help is the most fundamental breach of freedom of expression possible," he said.

 

 - Stuff

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