Efforts to combat begging are being stepped up in Sharjah in the run-up to Ramadan.
Sharjah Police, in cooperation with charitable associations , are planning to launch anti-begging campaigns through various programmes, including distributing booklets and sending SMSs.
Most beggars exploit people’s religious and charitable sentiments to make easy money, the police warn. If you are approached by beggars you can call Sharjah Police and a police patrol will be dispatched to your location.
According to Sharjah Police, more than 727 street beggars were arrested in 2011. The number fell to 212 in 2012, according to official statistics.
Police advise people to immediately report cases of begging , saying that beggars not only bother people and distort the country’s image, many of them are also involved in other illegal activities.
The police said beggars use various methods to extract money from people, including pretending they don’t have money to pay for essential grocery items or knocking on doors posing as neighbours. They make up a story that they got locked out of their house and need money for fuel.
“Some beggars pretend they are disabled, have a life-threatening disease, are unable to provide for their families or need money for urgent medical surgery,” a police official said.
In other cases, beggars provide fake documents about a fundraising campaign to build a mosque or a school for orphans in their home country.
Based on studies of past cases, Sharjah Police have found that organised gangs bring beggars into the country.
“We have realised that groups and individual beggars were issued visas. Our focus is not only on combating street begging but those who assist these individuals.
“Street begging occurs everywhere and in Sharjah we take the matter seriously as it ruins the reputation of the country and it affects the security of the place. The presence of beggars in mosques and shopping malls or any other public area is not a pleasant image for the country,” the official said.
“We have arrested many beggars who were not only disturbing the public with their illegal activities but were involved in robberies, crime and prostitution. Police urge the public not to fall for the many scams created by these individuals and to contact the police when they find a street beggar.”
The official added beggars are dangerous and can injure people and steal from them in residential areas. They stand the whole day in front of residential buildings, watching and gathering information about the people who live there. Police cameras monitor beggars without their knowledge which the police use to show people how beggars operate.
Police probes have caught some people who spent their day begging and at night they either slept in a luxury hotel, using the money gained from begging, rented a luxury car or bought expensive clothes. Police have found many beggars to be in possession of thousands of dirhams, and some enter the country on a visa solely for the purpose of begging.
Police have urged the public to approach charitable organisations directly so they can forward their donations to people who are really in need.
By Aghaddir Ali.