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Operation Loose Change targets South Bank’s aggressive beggars

Five people with a string of previous convictions were arrested during an operation to get persistent and aggressive beggars off the streets of Lambeth.

Lambeth Council led Operation Loose Change last Thursday which saw the authority working with Lambeth Police, Thames Reach and other support services.

Teams worked across the borough – with a focus on Waterloo, the South Bank, Vauxhall and Clapham – in response to police information that there had been a sharp rise in begging.

The push resulted in one man being jailed for five days for failing to appear at court and another being arrested for begging and in connection with a knifepoint robbery last week.

Those arrested had 77 previous convictions for 155 separate offences and 11 cautions between them. The previous convictions ranged from minor thefts, drugs offences, burglary and weapon and firearm possession.

A sixth man was arrested for alleged homophobic abuse under the Public Order Act and bailed pending further investigations.

Cllr Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for public protection, said: "No one in Lambeth needs to be homeless and no one needs to go hungry. There are enough services in place to meet people's needs.

"All the evidence from outreach teams working on the streets of Lambeth is that the money given to people begging will invariably be spent on heroin, crack cocaine and super-strength lager and ciders, rather than food or shelter.

"During Operation Loose Change all support services were made available at once to those arrested. So they will be prosecuted for any offences, but also given support to change their lives."

The team set off from Kennington Police Station at 1pm and had help finding the persistent beggars from council CCTV camera operators.

Will Norman, Thames Reach's Lambeth Street Outreach Response Team manager, said: "Some of the people begging have already been housed and all are struggling with potentially lethal addictions.

"Lambeth has a well organised response to both begging and rough sleeping including offers of accommodation, a new assessment hub and a dedicated outreach team .

"We ask that people don't provide the money that could lead to an overdose and will end up lining the pockets of local drug dealers and damaging local communities."

Once arrested the suspected beggars were taken to a custody suite where they had the chance to get help with housing, addiction, health and offender management services.

Acting Sergeant Alex Marshall from Bishop's ward Safer Neighbourhoods Team was one of the officers who joined the operation.

He said: "In the Waterloo area we are faced with the challenge of tackling the anti-social behaviour associated from street drinkers, rough sleepers and beggars.

"Operation Loose Change is one of a number of planned operations we have used so far, to target this issue. Six arrests were made and it is intended to obtain post-conviction ASBOs.

"Putting a stop to this entrenched issue remains a priority and we will continue to strengthen our joint working with Lambeth Council and our strategic partners to resolve this."

• Anyone worried about someone begging or sleeping rough can phone Lambeth SORT on 0870 383 3300 to get them help.

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