BEGGING at traffic lights in and around the Upper Highway area has increased drastically in the past few months, with some resorting to threats to extort money from residents.According to residents, some beggars have become accustomed to “getting money for doing nothing”.Ravi Govender, who regularly uses Old Main Road in Hillcrest, said he sees the same beggars at the same traffic lights every day waiting for hand-outs.“These beggars want to cash in on the kindness of Hillcrest residents to fuel their bad habits. Some are addicted to alcohol, drugs, and even gambling.“Some stink of alcohol, yet want us to have sympathy for them.”He says he has been sworn at by a man at the traffic lights when he refused to give him money.“He said I need to ‘watch my back’, and that ‘people like me will suffer’.”Govender is angry about this “begging craze” and said he works hard for his income and cannot give it away to people who stand on the roadside doing nothing.Business owners in Hillcrest say they have had enough of customers being harassed.“Some beggars stand outside food outlets asking people for money. This is not only bad for business, it makes our customers feel guilty for buying food while people stand outside ‘hungry’.“We are forced to chase the beggars away, yet they are back a few hours later or the next day,” said a business owner.He said police and the community need to work together to get beggars off the streets.Hillcrest Police Station communications officer Captain Linzi Smith said the only way beggars will stop harassing people is if people stop supporting them.“We are requesting that residents stop supporting the beggars in the area. “Not only is it illegal to beg in public, but they could also possibly be linked to crime within the Hillcrest CBD and surrounding areas. “This is a major concern, especially as we are embarking on the festive period. If the community continue giving hand-outs and money it participates in keeping beggars in the area. ’“If they stopped doing this the beggars will displace to others areas, which could possibly assist in lowering our crime,” she added.