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Chesterfield police cracking down on 'fake homeless people'

Stock picture.
Stock picture.

Police have insisted they are cracking down on bogus homeless people in Chesterfield.

Officers said a Wingerworth man who 'fakes homelessness' was begging at the Donut car park last Friday.

They dispersed the 28-year-old from the site - then 10 minutes later he was found asking for money from a 90-year-old woman in the Market Place.

The man has now been reported to court for begging.

On the back of that incident, Inspector Dave Nicholls, who is in charge of the local policing unit for Chesterfield, has told the Derbyshire Times that his officers will 'continue to take action to stop those individuals who wrongly take advantage of the good nature and generosity of our local community'.

Insp Nicholls said: "Our officers are aware of a number of individuals who have come to Chesterfield to beg from the public, and have been given money believing they are homeless, when we have information and intelligence that suggests they are not.

"Officers on the Chesterfield Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team carry out regular patrols in the town centre to target this issue, alongside other concerns about anti-social and nuisance behaviour and to respond to reports from the public.

"Action is taken against those who beg when we have evidence through the continued use of the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPOs), which covers Chesterfield town centre or through other criminal proceedings.

"We understand that there are many people who live in and visit Chesterfield town centre who want to help those people who are genuinely homeless, and we would encourage them to consider giving to one of our local charities which offer support to those who are sleeping rough, including Pathways, Church on the Bus and Grace Chapel. That way they can be sure that those who are in need receive help.

"Support is also provided by our partner agencies for those who are homeless in Chesterfield and we signpost these services to those who need it.

"We will continue to take action to stop those individuals who wrongly take advantage of the good nature and generosity of our local community, and take away from those who are most in need."

Sian Jones, manager of Saltergate-based Pathways - which is a service for the homeless - added: "We are very fortunate in Chesterfield to have public who care so much about the well-being of people who become homeless. It is sad when this goodwill is jeopardised by the actions of a few.

"People with a background of homelessness can still be very vulnerable even when they gain housing - as it is rarely just the lack of housing that is the difficulty for them. When working with people who are homeless it is essential to use a holistic approach in order to tackle some of the complex issues homeless people face. We work in partnership with numerous organisations to ensure people get the right support to meet their needs.

"People can donate to any of the charities that help the homeless. This will help to ensure that provisions are allocated to those who really need them."

PSPOs 'appear to be having desired effect'

Chesterfield Borough Council introduced PSPOs in December to deal with residents' concerns about the amount of anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

Among other things, they ban people from begging as well as acting in a way which causes nuisance, alarm, harassment to distress to another person.

In the first four months of operation, authorised council officers and police officers issued 74 dispersal notices, requiring people to leave the town centre for 48 hours.

Most of these were successful with only nine breached, resulting in a £100 fixed penalty notice.

The PSPOs - which 'appear to be having a desired effect', according to a council report - also aim to provide help and support to people who experience issues such as addiction, homelessness, rough sleeping and poor mental and physical health.

The council added that action to find longer-term solutions to issues is being delivered by a range of partners through the Chesterfield town centre summit chaired by Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa.

According to latest figures released by the Government, there are 12 rough sleepers across Chesterfield, up from six in 2010.