Be wary of beggars, police say

Begging for loose change, often under the guise of asking for "money for the bus" is something...
Begging for loose change, often under the guise of asking for "money for the bus" is something people should watch out for in Dunedin say police. By Dan Hutchinson
Police are predicting a rise in begging in Dunedin this summer and are warning Dunedin residents to be wary of strangers asking for money.

Community Constable Mike Gasson said police had received reports from a few people who felt harassed and intimidated by people asking them for money while they were in the central city last summer. Police had already received a few complaints about the behaviour this year.

The activity had been associated with some arrests for minor offences such as disorderly behaviour and offensive language.

''Our concern is that these kinds of requests for money by strangers can be upsetting for people and make people feel unsafe,'' he said.

''Sometimes people asking for money can be aggressive, intoxicated or overly persistent, and this can make people feel unsafe.''

Although `begging' was not illegal, police encouraged people to politely decline this kind of interest.

''There are some great organisations working hard in our community to support people who are vulnerable. Our suggestion is that a donation to these organisations can be a better decision,'' Const Gasson said. Another common request was young men approaching people they did not know asking for $2 for a bus ride to Mosgiel.

''These people are usually fairly well groomed and approach pedestrians in the inner city, politely asking for money to get the bus back to Mosgiel. From what I have seen, if these people used all of their takings on the bus, then they would spend several hours a day travelling back and forward to the Taieri,'' Const Gasson said.

''If you are approached by someone you don't know asking for money and consequently have safety concerns about yourself or another member of the public, then please call police immediately on 111. Everyone has the right to feel safe in the city.''

Const Gasson had approached people who were asking for money on the street to see if they needed help with accommodation or support and advice.

''None of the people I've approached have said that they didn't have a home, or that they needed assistance with accommodation,'' he said.

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