Retailers organisation Detailhandel Nederland wants a national ban on begging to discourage organised begging gangs from Eastern Europe, Trouw reported on Tuesday.
The organisation, which represents some 100,000 retailers, said that around 29 local councils have implemented a ban, among which Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Groningen but that the problem can only be solved on a national level.
People caught begging in public places can be fined and sent away but if big cities, such as Utrecht, don’t impose a ban the problem will move to other areas, the organisation said.
‘Commercial beggars from Eastern Europe prefer to beg in places where begging is legal. You don’t see them so often in places where there is a ban,’ criminology professor Dina Siegel told the paper. ‘Beggars come to Utrecht because they know there is no ban. They find out about big events and holidays and have also started to beg in trains because they know it more difficult to fine them there.’
Retailers in Utrecht have now asked the council to impose a ban but it has said it does not want to penalise genuine beggars. ‘We only intervene if people are actively asking people for money or goods in the streets. People who are sitting in front of a supermarket with a sign do not get fined,’ an Utrecht council spokesperson said.
Siegel says a national ban will not make a great deal of difference. ‘The situation in Eastern Europe is so bad that beggars will continue to come here. A ban will only result in more illegal begging. It only means they need an extra person as a look-out for the police.’
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