Most of the beggars and street drinkers in Wakefield are not homeless, according to the inspector in charge of policing the city centre.
Inspector Helen Brear said well-meaning people who give money to beggars in the city were being misled and officers were having to work in smarter ways to deal with anti-social behaviour.
She said: “It is fair to say that the majority of people begging in Wakefield city centre are actually not homeless and we need to get the message out to the public that they are being deceived.”
She said that public space protection orders and criminal behaviour orders used to tackle street drinking had been very effective and she cited the case of persistent offender James McMaster.
He was jailed for more than six months in October for repeatedly returning to the city centre after he was banned for continual drunken behaviour.
Working alongside Wakefield Council and Wakefield BID some of the schemes now used to tackle anti-social behaviour include radios given out to businesses, which are shared with officers and with the CCTV control room. She said it helped traders to point out and target trouble more effectively.
A “smartwater” scheme that tags cans of strong alcohol to off-licences has been deemed a success by police.
It means that individual cans be traced back to the shop they came from and off licences can be “held to account”.
But she noted budget cuts had made her officers’ work more demanding.
She said: “With austerity the police have been cut by 20 per cent, and a large chunk was taken out of neighbourhood policing and diverted to other areas.
The Police and Crime Commissioner has given us two additional PCSOs dedicated to the city centre, so I am very grateful for that. But we have found it incredibly challenging and our officers are also tasked with safeguarding, road safety, knife crime, nuisance neighbours, early intervention – the list is endless.”
She said it was vital that the public were the “eyes and ears” of the police and reported incidents of street drinking to the police at the online 101 service.