Bringing down begging

A project to address aggressive begging in the CBD has brought about a “noticeable decrease” in the activity.

The project, run by the City of Cape Town in partnership with the Cape Town Central Improvement District (CCID), sees safety officers intervening when they come across aggressive begging, explains ward councillor Dave Bryant.

“The CCID is providing support in the form of additional security staff who work with the ward allocation rent-a-cop. They are working to intervene when they come across instances of aggressive begging taking place. Aggressive begging is deemed to be taking place when an individual is repeatedly asked for a contribution and followed or harassed into doing so,” he says.

The CCID referred any enquires to the City.

Both the City and CCID have identified aggressive begging as “a key complaint”, Bryant says.

“It is defined in the City’s Streets and Public Places Bylaw as a contravention. Many people have voiced their discomfort at being followed and harassed, especially women and the elderly. In some instances, those engaged in aggressive begging become abusive and this leads to altercations. Often tourists hand over large sums of money out of fear as they are not sure how to deal with the situation,” he says.

The concern has dated back several years, with the formation of a task team to tackle aggressive begging coming under discussion in 2014 (“Team tackles begging”, People’s Post, 16 December 2014).

At the time, Bryant explained that aggressive begging – when someone is approached or followed in a way intended to influence or to cause them to fear imminent bodily harm or loss of property, intimidated into giving money or closely followed after declining to give to a beggar – is currently plaguing tourists in the inner city.

He emphasised that “begging is not illegal, but aggressive begging, as defined by the bylaw, cannot be condoned and must be addressed­”.

The project has already started to show results, Bryant says.

“There has been a notable decrease in aggressive begging in the areas that are currently being policed but there are still a number of individuals engaged in aggressive begging in the CBD. It is important that the work of this team be supported and that any regular offenders are reported to the City’s Law Enforcement Unit on 021 596 1999,” he adds.

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