Homeless people are being handed football-style red cards in a bid to clamp down on aggressive begging.
Police are issuing the cards in Liverpool following complaints about “intimidating” behaviour by some rough sleepers.
Those deemed to be committing anti-social behaviour will be issued with a yellow card. If they continue, they will get a red card – a final warning that they could face arrest or a city centre ban.
“Each person on the street is an individual and has their own story. Handing our a red card like the football referee Howard Webb doesn’t solve people’s problems”
Liam Moore, Voice in the City
The cards give information on how homeless people can seek help from the council or local support schemes.
Fears over victimisation
But Liam Moore, director of social justice choir Voice in the City, said the red cards could victimise the homeless.
He told i: “The issue is where will it stop. Does it open the flood gates to intimidation? Anyone who commits anti-social behaviour should be prosecuted, but we need solutions.
“Each person on the street is an individual and has their own story. Handing out a red card like the football referee Howard Webb doesn’t solve people’s problems.”
Turning lives around
Merseyside Police have been running an operation with Liverpool City Council since 2013 to help people begging or drinking on the streets.
Officers say the operation is designed to help vulnerable people “turn their lives around” and to help them access accommodation and support services.
A new centre has opened in Liverpool to support street drinkers and to help them tackle addiction, homelessness and health problems.
The red card scheme is backed by the council and the Liverpool BID company, which represents more than 1,500 businesses in the city.
Chief Superintendent Mark Wiggins said: “The police and local authority have received complaints from the local business community and members of the public around the adverse impact begging can have on the city because it can also raise issues of anti-social behaviour from some.
”We therefore need to support the community as well as the vulnerable individuals, some of whom are homeless and a small percentage are rough sleeping, and there are established charities that can help them.
“Using the card will ensure anyone involved in this activity has the best chance possible to understand who can help them and how to prevent themselves getting into further trouble”
Chief Superintendent Mark Wiggins
“These cards will help provide them with the information they need to take advantage of that support.
“If some individuals do not take on the offers of support and continue to commit offences or anti-social behaviour, then as a partnership we can take further action to protect the wide community.
“But our starting point is one of support and help. Using the card will ensure anyone involved in this activity has the best chance possible to understand who can help them and how to prevent themselves getting into further trouble.”