More than 96 per cent of Newcastle beggars who appear in court are not homeless

Organised criminals are bringing groups of beggars to the city

96 per cent of beggars that appear in court claiming to be homeless actually have a fixed home address.

Many of the beggars are appearing on the streets of Newcastle, particularly in busy areas such as Haymarket and Northumberland Street, claim to be cold and hungry.

But Newcastle City Council says the spare change that unsuspecting people give to these beggars may actually be used to fuel drug or alcohol addictions.

Worryingly, the beggars may also be part of organised crime rings who are bringing groups of people into Newcastle in order to exploit Geordie generosity.

In an attempt to allow the public make informed choices as to whether they should give to beggars, Newcastle City Council has launched the “No Need to Beg” campaign.

Initiatives of the campaign include raising the issue that Newcastle doesn’t have a homelessness problem, as there are “hundreds of vacant beds” available for those genuinely sleeping rough.

It also highlights that addiction outreach workers offer help to all those that they see begging for money.

Chair of Safe Newcastle, Nick Kemp said: “Begging is a problem in the city centre and there is evidence that shoppers are being intimidated and businesses affected.

“We can’t force people not to give to beggars as they do it in good faith, but we want to inform them about what is really going on so they can make an informed choice.”

Begging in the city centre has become so frequent it has prompted 160 calls to police in the last month, often from shoppers or local businesses feeling intimidated.

77 per cent of shoppers say they have been asked directly for money by beggars.

Currently there are 15 “persistent beggars” operating in Newcastle, although the council claims there are only five to eight people actually sleeping rough in the city.