A British economist says government austerity cuts have a role to play in the upsurge of begging prosecutions nationwide.
Prosecutions over begging have increased dramatically in England and Wales, raising concerns that cuts to support services and benefits may push more people towards panhandling.
Police records show the number of cases has risen 70 percent over the past year. In some areas like Merseyside, the number of charges over vagrancy has increased nearly 400% in one year.
In response to the trend, community support officers in some areas, such as Manchester city center, have been trained to issue court summons. Also, local businesses have been encouraged to report homelessness and begging.
However, some believe that the government’s austerity measures among others could have also contributed to the surge. Keith Pilbeam, professor of International Economics and Finance at City University, says: “Obviously some of this increase may be due to cuts in social security section, but it can also mean that the police have just been forcing the legislation a little bit more than they used to.”
Professor Pilbeam added that people need to have jobs and that “the government needs to be concerned, because people don’t beg for no reason.”
He further noted that poverty “is on the increase, but we need to look at it in the round, and not just the numbers of baggers on the street.”