A MAJOR clampdown on begging and nuisance behaviour in Wigan town centre is to be enforced from next month.
Wigan Council and Greater Manchester Police have jointly been granted a zero tolerance Section 222 injunction order for the area.
It is the first time such an instrument has ever been granted in the North West and was applied for after incidents of begging and vagrancy rocketed by 500 per cent in the 12 months up to September last year.
As of April 1 begging and any nuisance behaviour will be banned in the town centre, and any individuals caught doing this will be punished.
Beggars will be prohibited from approaching people to ask them for money, causing nuisance behaviour which is intimidating and offensive, being drunk and disorderly, and the order also prevents them from being in groups of two or more which may contribute to people fearing for their safety.
Anyone caught begging will be served with the court order, a breach of which will put them in contempt of court, resulting in a fine, imprisonment or both.
It is part of sustained efforts to help make Wigan town centre a safer place, and prevent shoppers and businesses from experiencing aggressive and disruptive behaviour from beggars.
Along with other partners, the council and police launched the Killing with Kindness campaign last year which urged the public not to give money to beggars - as most were using the money to fund alcohol and drug habits - but give to charities supporting beggars instead.
Any individuals found begging will also be referred to The Brick Project, which provides support for homeless and disadvantaged people in the borough and helps them recover and get their lives back on track.
Council environment dierctor Terry Dunn said: “Wigan Council enforcement officers and Greater Manchester Police work closely to stop anti-social behaviour from happening in the borough and I am delighted they will have new powers in Wigan town centre to help them in their efforts to reduce this further.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that an idiotic minority are prepared to make the lives of shoppers miserable and affect local businesses through poor behaviour. I’m pleased there will be severe consequences for anyone who chooses to ignore the order.” Insp Glenn Jones of the Wigan Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This injunction has been put in place in response to the aggressive begging which sometimes takes place, and which is often seen as intimidating to passers-by. These new powers will help us to deal with the problem swiftly, making Wigan town centre a safer and more appealing place for all.”
The order expires on February 21, 2015. Anti-social behaviour taking place in the area can be reported to police on 101 or by visiting http://www.wigan.gov.uk/Resident/Crime-Emergencies/Anti-social-behaviour.aspx