Felixstowe beggars distressing residents
AGGRESSIVE beggars on the streets of Felixstowe are posing problems for shoppers – and left a teenager deeply distressed by their strong-arm tactics.Two middle-aged men launched a verbal assault on a scared 19-year-old and forced him to hand over all his loose change – getting just 40p for their efforts.
By Richard Cornwell
AGGRESSIVE beggars on the streets of Felixstowe are posing problems for shoppers – and left a teenager deeply distressed by their strong-arm tactics.
Two middle-aged men launched a verbal assault on a scared 19-year-old and forced him to hand over all his loose change – getting just 40p for their efforts.
Police said today that the youth wasn't harmed by the men or man-handled in any way, but it was their aggression and bad-mouthing which made the young man hand over the cash.
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Officers are appealing to the public to help them find the two men involved in the incident, and also urging the public to report any similar cases where they felt victimised when being asked for money on the street.
Details of the incident have been released on the same day that people in another Suffolk seaside resort, Lowestoft, are being asked for their opinions on major problems with begging in their town.
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The incident in Felixstowe happened at 3.10pm on August 21 in Hamilton Road when the street was busy with shoppers.
Two men, one black with dreadlocks, the other a white man with grey hair and old enough to be the victim's dad, asked the 19-year-old for cash.
The teenager, who has not been named, initially refused and was set to walk on when the men became verbally aggressive and he agreed to hand over 40p – which would not even paid for a chocolate bar for each of the men.
Police said the men had been very aggressive and left the young man "very distressed" and upset.
Felixstowe has not had a major problem with beggars, though twice in the last month people have slept openly on the street in Hamilton Road and the number of sightings and reports of beggars is growing.
A police spokeswoman said beggars could be arrested under the vagrancy laws but officers tried to take a balanced view depending on circumstances and often use a "lighter touch" to deal with them, giving them advice about organisations which could help them.
"A number of people will give money to beggars when asked on the street because they feel sorry for them or want to help. But if we get complaints then we would move them or arrest them depending on the complaint and the circumstances," she said.
"If anyone feels uncomfortable about the way they have been asked for money, or they feel they have been asked aggressively or in a threatening manner, or feel they have been victimised, we would certainly want to hear about it."
Police described the black man as aged around 35, 5ft 10ins tall, of slim build, with a beard and black hair in shoulder length dreadlocks. He was wearing dark clothing.
The white man was thought to be aged between 45 and 50, 5ft 8ins tall, of stout build with short grey hair, and wearing light coloured clothing.
Anyone with information should contact Pc Mark Jackaman on 01473 613500.
Many seaside towns have had problems with aggressive begging and in Brighton a new scheme has been launched called Begging for Change in which special cash collection points have been set up for people to donate with the cash later distributed to those in need.