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Begging in city drops as gardai target hotspots

GARDAI have achieved a "significant" crackdown on begging in Dublin city, councillors have been told.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael Feehan said begging has been "reduced considerably" as a result.

The operation has been made possible by the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, which was enacted in February.

In a report for city councillors, Mr Feehan said: "Arising from this new legislation, I directed that operations were to be put in place to address the begging problem across the city.

"That operation has involved gardai directing people to desist from begging and in making arrests in appropriate cases.

"Significant cautions and arrests have taken place to date and reports from the community have indicated that the level of begging has reduced considerably.

"The operation will continue for the foreseeable future."

The new laws made organised begging a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of €200,000.





offences

The legislation was brought through the Dail by former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.

Mr Feehan noted the act created "new offences for begging when accompanied by harassment, intimidation, assault, threats to any person or the obstruction of the passage of persons or vehicles".

Even before the bill was passed, gardai had implemented a zero-tolerance policy against "aggressive begging" in the centre of Dublin.

The targeted zone included Marlborough Street, Talbot Street, North Earl Street, Lower Abbey Street, Eden Quay and the Liffey Boardwalk.

Some 65 parents or guardians, who allowed their children to beg on the streets, were arrested during a nine-month period last year.

Under the terms of the legislation, begging is prohibited within 10 metres of ATM cash machines.

But charity Leanbh, which works with child beggars, says the laws are too far reaching.

"From our experience around 90pc of people who are out begging every day, they are out begging because they have no other way of getting money to cover their day-by-day living expenses.

"They have no access to any form of social welfare benefit," Adriana Fechete of Leanbh said.

comurphy@herald.ie