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Professional beggars working in Leicester

September 09 2009
Joint operations between the city council and the police revealed none of the people arrested were homeless

Walking in the steps of Sherlock Holmes, Leicestershire officers have discovered a growing number of modern-day imitators of Arthur Conan Doyle's creation Hugh Boone, who dressed up as a beggar and posed as a rough sleeper to enhance the income from other jobs.

In July, local police cautioned 20 people for begging on the streets of Leicester in the first two weeks of a scheme to tackle the problem. But, joint operations between the city council and the police revealed none of them were homeless. Instead they were professional beggars, much like the fictional character from the Sherlock Holmes' case The Man With The Twisted Lip.

Toni Soni, the head of hostel services at Leicester council, said: "There are people who are actually professional beggars who are doing it to make a living. If we did find they were rough sleepers, we would try to engage them in our support services.” Sergeant Adrian Underwood, of Leicestershire police, told the local paper Leicester Mercury that some people could pick up to £200 begging on a Friday or Saturday night. Previously, the police launched a 'three strikes and you're out' approach after begging emerged as a major issue for people living, working and shopping in Leicester.

As part of the crackdown, beggars are being given a formal warning and their details taken by the police. If they are spotted again, a second warning is issued and if caught a third time, they could face arrest and prosecution.