POLICE and Chorley Council are working together to reduce ‘aggressive’ begging in Chorley town centre.

Officers say that it started in the last year but over the past six month shoppers have been ‘pestered’ and more ‘aggressively hassled’ .

Sgt Mike Moys says the multi-agency partnership with the council is starting to reap rewards to tackle the problem.

“We have got a team of beggars operating in the town centre and it is connected to drugs in the area,” said Mike Moys.

“They have stepped up a gear to put pressure on people and hassling them to give money.

“The council have been working with us on the project and they have been issuing Community Protection Warnings which is a verbal warning then if it continues a notice can be also given to stop and could lead to a Community Protection Order to ban them from the town centre.

“People should be entitled to daily jobs or shopping in the town centre without being followed or feeling harassed.

“There are people making a living out of it and there are close links with shop-lifting and drugs use in the town centre and we are trying to combat it.

“We are starting to make an impact on it and in the next few month we are expecting some positive outcomes.”

Cllr Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “We’re going to nip this in the bud before it becomes a major problem and the quickest way to put a stop to begging is if people stop giving them money.

“We’ve been talking to those begging on the streets to let them know there is support if they need somewhere to stay, help with getting a job, or support in accessing treatment for any ongoing issues they may have.

“We’re helping one or two of them with things, as we would with any other resident, but they don’t need money from people visiting the town centre to live.

“If people can do their bit and not give them money we’ll take action where necessary to both help and assist these people individually, as luckily in Chorley there is no need for anyone to be without shelter, food or warmth as we as a council put lots of resources into providing for those in real need.

“We will at the same time take action against those we believe are begging as a career choice and we have already issued some Community Protection Notices (CPNs) to allow us to take action against individuals who are effectively harassing people visiting the town centre.”

Malcolm Allen, chairman of the Chorley Traders Alliance said: “Customers are just getting annoyed and they have been particularly targetting older females in the town.

“There have been times when they have been standing behind people at the cash machines asking for money.

“The council and police are taking action but we need it to stop.”