BEGGARS are pocketing up to £2,000 a month in benefits – while pretending to sleep rough on Britain’s streets.
Many towns are plagued by “prolific” vagrants who have their own accommodation despite portraying themselves as homeless.
And they are topping up their state hand-outs – which include housing benefits – by asking unassuming strangers for their spare change.
Freedom of information figures in 2014 found that of 1,002 people nicked for begging, only 199 were legally defined as homeless.
In recent years there has been a 70 per cent spike nationally in prosecutions, with the number of suspected beggars hauled through Britain’s courts.
In Middlesbrough, the council has now identified nine main beggars in the town who it says are all entitled to benefits – while most are not homeless.
“Despite the public’s misconception that the street beggars are homeless, eight out the nine have accommodation,” reads a report by the authority.
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“All are entitled to receive benefits including Housing Benefit and many have been assessed by the Department of Working Pensions (DWP).
“Their individual circumstances often mean they are receiving upwards of £2,000 a month in benefits but are still choosing to generate additional income by begging.”
The authority states the “majority” of these are hooked on heroin.
In total, there are thought to be around 11 beggars in town at any one point – although it’s claimed there are fewer in the colder winter months.
Banning orders have been used to stop some entering certain areas, while others have already been slapped with Asbos for offences including begging.
Last week, notorious Stephen Crozier admitted begging, despite a court hearing he claims benefits and has a roof over his head, according to Gazette Live.
Crozier’s solicitor said he was begging because he’d run out of cash after his benefits had been paid too early.
Magistrates fined him £40 and ordered him to pay a £30 charge for the latest breach.
But culprits are now even being locked up for begging – with at least two jailed in Teesside alone last year.
In July, efforts were made by numerous agencies in Middlesbrough to engage with those on the streets to help them get support.
But the document, from the council’s Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel also states: “Many continue to suffer from poor mental health and have often experienced abuse in childhood.
“The majority refuse to work with services. The majority of street beggars are passive and their behaviour is not aggressive.”
The report comes as cops hunt a brazen beggar after he asked strangers for cash – despite claiming benefits and having a home.