JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

'Proceeds of crime' seizure beggars belief

Date

Aisha Dow, Tammy Mills

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Police targeting 'aggressive' beggers

The Salvation Army says police are only targeting aggressive beggars in the city and not those in genuine need, following claims some beggars are having cash seized from them.

PT0M0S 620 349

Police are seizing coins and cash from beggars in Melbourne's CBD as proceeds of crime, according to reports from homeless people and welfare workers.

Youth Projects say they have had up to eight cases in the past year of police confiscating the "meagre proceeds" of the homeless after they were charged with the offence of begging alms.

The welfare group's chair, Melanie Raymond, said in one case, on Christmas Eve, a man was forced to put his takings in a charity box.

Police check a beggar's bowl in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Police check a beggar's bowl in Melbourne on Wednesday. Photo: Joe Armao

"We think begging should be decriminalised because it's penalising people for being poor and hungry," Ms Raymond said.

City worker Philip Staindl said last month a homeless man that begs near his office on Little Collins Street had $20 from his coffee cup taken.

He said the man was told that he was breaking the law, could be taken to court, and that his morning's takings were the "proceeds of crime". "I was incredulous," Mr Staindl said.

A man, 33, begging on Elizabeth Street on Tuesday, said he had been charged with begging alms four times, but they let him keep his money. He said others have had their cash confiscated.

The last time the former heroin user was charged was two months ago, but yesterday he was back begging with his upturned beanie.

"I got sick of going to jail. Instead of stealing to get somewhere to stay I do this, which doesn't hurt anyone," he said.

Police on the beat on Tuesday confirmed they enforced begging laws and said while they can seize their cash as proceeds of crime, "we don't do it". Meanwhile homeless people said those beggars who were targeted by police were mostly those who harassed the public, by yelling out to them and approaching them. Victoria Police spokeswoman Sergeant Sharon Darcy also said she was not aware of any cases of cash seizures occurring.

More than 200 people were charged with begging alms last year, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment. However, most who are charged in Melbourne are diverted to a program run by police, council and the Salvation Army.

The program, which puts the homeless in contact with welfare workers, was launched early last year over concern around "professional" and "aggressive" beggars were menacing people for cash.

Yet Lucy Adams, the manager and principal lawyer at Homeless Law, said those beggars netted in the crackdown were not the so-called professional beggars, but those experiencing "extreme hardship".

Almost 80 per cent of their 14 clients involved in the program were long-term unemployed. All but one person had mental health problems.

"The vast majority were begging passively, just with a sign and sitting on the streets," she said.

"We've got a complex social problem, we don't know what else to do and our first response is law enforcement."

177 comments

  • So cant the police afford to buy their own donuts

    Commenter
    edurdo
    Date and time
    August 21, 2014, 6:49AM
    • Some of Melbourne's beggars are very aggressive. If you don't give them anything they swear and flail about and stay in front of you asking again.

      "oh, I just need 6 dollars for a room"

      Some of them are a menace and have spoiled it for the rest.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 7:57AM
    • Don't blame police. They are following orders from above. Doyle? The vulnerable are easy targets. If my recollection is correct, no individual in the finance industry has been jailed for ripping billions from investors. In fact FOFA has been pulled back by Abbott's Govt and finance industry go for the throat again with impunity.
      With the new no payment for six month Newstart / Work for the dole rule proposal the ranks of beggars and prisons will swell. Job prospects will arise in police force and prison institutions.

      Commenter
      Leszek
      Location
      Noosa
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 7:59AM
    • They should focus on the slimey con artists at the other end of town, including the banks.

      Commenter
      LJanes
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 8:01AM
    • Zero tolerance of begging is absolutely necessary, otherwise it quickly becomes a plague. Most of the people doing it have no need to do so, but are either opportunistic or too lazy or desocialised to seek out support. Intervention is absolutely necessary, and the police should be supported 100% in this difficult but most necessary task.

      Commenter
      James
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 8:04AM
    • @Edurdo. Ahhh another of that magic breed that thinks all homeless are noble creatures who have done nothing wrong. 'If', and I use that word purposely, what the police say they do then I have no issue. Bottom line is some homeless or beggars are outright aggressive - I have been abused for not 'donating' money before by a number of what I can only say are mentally unhinged beggars (whether its drink, drugs or in fact are mentally unhinged) and it is not pleasant. So I suggest you grow up - I'm male and just walk away or say something pithy back - imagine your female or someone old, feeling threatened or intimidated. I know it seems a bridge too far for you to understand but all people, including the homeless, are expected to conduct themselves and their interactions with others in a civilized manner. Otherwise they don't deserve any help. No my friend, the only thing I have gleaned from your post is that far too common chip on your shoulder about the police force..full stop.

      Commenter
      Andrew
      Location
      Elsternwick
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 8:10AM
    • It's easy to attack police in situations like this but the issue deserves closer and deeper scrutiny.

      I support much greater investment in program's to assist homeless and distressed people.

      I also believe empathy and compassion are important first steps in helping our people.

      In many cases, perhaps most, begging is the desperate last hope that people have to survive.

      Unfortunately there are also criminals who do it for reasons not deserving our empathy or compassion.

      These people deserve police intervention and I support this response.

      The important factor is that one does not spill into the other. Most Australians do not want the homeless and poor harassed for "cosmetic" reasons.

      However there are thieves who pretend to be homeless, act aggressively and especially tend to prey on the more defenceless amongst us.

      It's a hard job for anyone, and in this case the police are left in the difficult position of weeding out the true criminal element.

      Before you lay out your donut jokes, take a walk around the Vic Matket and take note of the aggressive and talented beggars. I recognise many of them, some of them have been at it for years.

      I am glad it's not me that has to decide when and how to intervene.

      Commenter
      Socrates
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 8:26AM
    • @ Andrew,

      you gleaned all that from a comment about doughnuts, wow!

      Commenter
      Wow
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 8:26AM
    • How else can a lowly paid officer take advantage of McDonalds one dollar cheeseburger offer? Available for a limited time only. Won't be a problem after that.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 8:40AM
    • @ Wow. Please read again - I know you didn't the first time. My last line was what I gleaned from the OP. The rest was experience and understanding the article. And what would you call a single line reference about donuts - if nothing else its a chip on a shoulder (or maybe powdered sugar in Eduardo's case)

      Commenter
      Andrew
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 8:47AM

More comments

Comments are now closed

Related Coverage

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo