Criminals posing as beggars

Police Minister Liza Harvey says there is a "range of criminals" making very good money posing as beggars on Perth streets and has promised to meet Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to come up with a solution.

The comments came after _The Weekend West _ revealed beggars were extorting money under duress from vulnerable patrons in City of Perth carparks.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information laws show some parking officers fear for their safety working at carparks that have become increasingly violent and drug dens.

Mrs Harvey said begging was a concern from time to time and, when it became aggressive, police would be expected to step in.

"Begging is a very complex issue and there's a range of criminals who are out there trying to get money from well-meaning members of the community who think they are destitute," she said. "A lot of these people make a very good living out of begging."

Mrs Harvey said she did not believe Perth was at the point where it needed to introduce harsh begging laws but instead the "emerging problem" could be addressed by a cohesive strategy.

Salvation Army communications and fundraising secretary Warren Palmer said it was critical that all parties got together with a clear intent to work towards solutions.

"The social response to this problem has become lost and even reduced by some to an unhealthy view that homelessness is a societal abomination which needs to be legislated rather than a community crisis which needs to be holistically addressed," Mr Palmer said.

"Neither being homeless nor begging constitutes an offence, whilst clearly aggression, violence and antisocial behaviours need to be addressed accordingly across all spheres of society.

"For those who are entrapped by a life of addiction and poverty, their vulnerability is easily manipulated by those seeking personal gain."

The West Australian

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