Mayor seeks minister s help to cut begging

Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi wants urgent meetings with key State Government ministers to begin the overdue fight against organised and aggressive begging on city streets.

"The longer we do nothing about it, the more it will become an accepted part of our city," Ms Scaffidi said.

"But these people are offending and threatening the security of our ratepayers and visitors to the city.

"We need a city-wide, cross-government approach to deal with them. The City of Perth can't do it alone. We just don't have the powers."

BEGGING RACKET | PERTH'S SORDID SIDE

Ms Scaffidi said she would like to meet Police Minister Liza Harvey because the increased aggression displayed by the beggars meant a discussion was needed on a stronger police presence in the CBD.

And she would like a meeting with Attorney-General Michael Mischin because dealing with the beggars might need a legislative foundation.

"Intervention seems to be a key in how other cities are dealing with the problem," she said. "People forced to beg to fund a drug addiction are taken away and given drug treatment.

"People who are forced to beg to fund an alcohol addiction are given alcohol treatment. And beggars with a gambling addiction are given gambling treatment.

"And in cities like Melbourne, the other illegitimate beggars are fined and moved on."

Ms Scaffidi said the council generally spent about $1.1 million a year on carpark security.

But this had been topped up with $300,000 this year as a direct result of the activities of beggars, with evidence that many of them were hiding in carpark stairwells and using drugs and alcohol.

"Our carparks are not unsafe," she said. "But we know that there is a small element of people who are capable of making it very unpleasant for people."

The West Australian

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