Police have launched a renewed crackdown to rid Preston city centre of street beggars.
The move follows an increase in complaints from the public fed up with having to run the gauntlet of people asking for money.
Many of the beggars you see in the city centre simply beg to fund their alcohol or drug habits.Sgt Paul McLernon
The latest campaign comes just four months after officers ran a similar operation in the build-up to Christmas.
While that had some success, shoppers and city centre workers are now reporting beggars have returned in even greater numbers.
A recent online PACT meeting brought a flurry of complaints about the proliferation of down-and-outs pleading for cash from passers-by.
Sgt Paul McLernon reassured people that tackling begging had been a priority in the city centre for some time and warned against believing all the hard luck stories being offered.
“We don’t actually have many beggars that are genuinely homeless,” he said.
“Many of the beggars you see in the city centre simply beg to fund their alcohol or drug habits. We work very closely with the council and other partners to get anyone unfortunate enough to be in this situation help and support. Unfortunately if these individuals don’t want that help, there is very little other than enforcement that can be done.”
Officers say that while some people begging on the streets do have tragic stories, some had been known to make up tales to make passers-by feel sorry for them.
In the recent online meeting, one woman even said she had seen her next-door-neighbour begging in the city.
Police have been targeting beggars in the city centre for several years – there was a similar crackdown back in 2008 – but so far no permanent solution has been found.
Seven years ago, teams of officers patrolled the streets looking to catch beggars in the act and prosecute them.
The 2008 campaign had been prompted by people complaining they were scared to go into the city centre after dark.
Today the police say they are hoping to apply for a new Criminal Behaviour Order against people who are persistent offenders.
The main area of concern is Fishergate where beggars have been harassing pedestrians outside shops and banks.