Group to tackle begging

Begging could be made illegal as part of a joint bid by the State Government and City of Perth to tackle the antisocial behaviour marring the central business district.

A committee will be established to review legislative, policing and surveillance solutions to the problems detailed in The West Australian in the past month.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws showed parking officers felt threatened by vagrants who took drugs, urinated and defecated in the city's carparks.

The officers also reported a sudden rise in forceful, co-ordinated begging this year.

They described a new class of beggars who targeted tourists, the elderly and women with children, and often became aggressive when asked to move on.

Their claims have since been corroborated by carpark cleaners, security guards and members of the public.

Elsewhere in the city, a survey of shop owners revealed a theme of serial shoplifters who worked in packs and intimidated staff.

Last week, Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi met Attorney-General Michael Mischin, Police Minister Liza Harvey and Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan to discuss tackling the problem.

The meeting resulted in the creation of a joint working committee that is expected to release findings by the end of the year.

Ms Scaffidi said the "menace" of organised begging was more prevalent in Perth than in any other capital city in Australia.

Begging is illegal in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. WA's anti-begging laws were repealed in 2004.

Mrs Harvey and Mr Mischin have been speaking to their Victorian counterparts about the approach to begging in Melbourne, which involves a diversionary program run by the Salvation Army.

Mrs Harvey said police had engaged with shop owners and other stakeholders to develop a strategy to reduce harassment and shoplifting.

The West Australian

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