For many of us, the winter months are spent wrapped up in the warmth surrounded by family, fairy lights and festive food.
For others, with no one to turn to, the freezing conditions bring pain, fear and desperation.
Over recent weeks, officers from the Rotherham Central Neighbourhood team, working with partners, have been focusing on street begging with the aim of helping those in need and tackling those taking advantage.
Rotherham Central Inspector Jenny Lax (pictured) talks about her team’s approach to street begging and the results from a recent day of action.
“One of our on-going priorities is to help make Rotherham town centre a place where people feel safe, want to visit and want to work,” said Inspector Lax. “Over recent months, we received a number of complaints from businesses as well as members of the public, about the number of people begging.
“We put together a plan of action, including increasing town centre patrols, to take positive action and separate those vulnerable people from those making a mockery of honest and caring members of the public.”
She added: “We know that there are cases where beggars are self-confessed, one-man crime waves who are playing on the generosity of members of the public and choosing to beg, causing a nuisance and intimidating people going about their business.
“Our PCSOs have been visiting the addresses of individuals known to us, so we can identify those taking advantage and ensure that they are dealt with through appropriate enforcement ranging from a verbal warning to arrest.
“As a result of our positive action, we have issued 15 warnings and four cautions for begging and one person has been reported on summons.”
Earlier this month, a multi-agency day of action took place in Rotherham Town Centre, with nine referrals made to the council’s housing services, two referrals were made to drug support services and some warm clothing was provided to vulnerable people.
“It’s all about getting the right balance,” added Inspector Lax. “There are a variety of reasons that lead to people begging, from gambling addictions to family break downs, which is why we have taken a multi-agency approach to try and put that person in touch with the right service provider.
“The first step is that they are offered an instant appointment at Key Choices (the council’s housing team) and are accompanied by a Police Community Support Officer to help make sure that they attend.
“The second step is to look at the valid reasons as to why they are begging and for example bring in a substance misuse counsellor if relevant.”
Further town centre days of action are planned for January when officers will monitor the progress of referrals already made.
“The key now is to ensure that we keep in touch with the people we are helping and encourage them to take the support on offer and help them to stay off the streets,” said Inspector Lax.