Video has been shared online of beggars in Melbourne’s CBD, who the uploader says are fake and working in an organised syndicate.
The footage shows several women begging on street corners, hunched over on the floor, shaking their clasped hands for donations.
One of the women, who has her face covered, has a sign asking for help, which details a list of health problems she needs support for including heart disease.
When spotting the camera, two of the women quickly pack up their belongings and flee from the scene.
The Reddit user who uploaded the clip said they had seen a “growing presence of organised fake Chinese panhandlers” operating over the last six months.
They claim to have seen the group meet up before leaving the city together on a train.
“Each evening they are led by a middle-aged woman and they speak Mandarin to each other with what sounds like a Dongguan dialect,” the user wrote.
“I have seen five older Asian women who are the main panhandlers. This video shows three of them.”
Victoria Police aware of professional beggars in Melbourne
The video prompted hundreds of comments, with many users revealing they have also noticed similar behaviour and suspected the beggars weren’t homeless and in genuine need of donations.
A Victoria Police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that the force remains vigilant over begging syndicates.
“While the majority of people begging in Melbourne are vulnerable and in need, there are a small number of professional beggars who target the CBD at times,” they said.
”We know this behaviour can result in the public feeling anxious or unsafe, particularly if the person begging is acting aggressively. Victoria Police continually tasks resources to enforce legislation relating to this behaviour and provide community reassurance. “
The spokesperson noted that the maximum offence for begging or gathering alms is 12 months imprisonment.
Victoria Police had previously uncovered a group of fake beggars who were living in accomodation with vehicles, The Herald Sun reported in February.
“This core group of people come into the city on a daily basis, and what we’ve identified is that they’re not those in the greatest need,” Inspector Craig Peel said at the time.
“They come in and take resources and opportunities away from those in the greatest need.”
There was immediate action from Victoria Police, with 33 people charged over a two-week period.
Begging illegal in Victoria
Several comments on the Reddit video also indicated they had recently seen police charge beggars.
Begging remains illegal across Victoria with the City of Melbourne advising people to instead donate to homeless charities instead of handing money out to beggars.
A 2015 study by Salvation Army support service Melbourne Project 614 revealed professional beggars can take home up to $400 a day with many working six days a week.
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