Police launch crackdown on London beggars
Oxford Street and Marble Arch near Hyde Park are some of the most popular tourists spots in London, but scratch the surface and a different picture emerges of anti-social behaviour and begging in the area, prompting a new police crackdown.
A closer look around the area reveals bedding and other belongings of beggars in the undergrowth and bushes surrounding Marble Arch.
The items are often hidden away during the day to try to prevent their detection.The area is usually teeming with tourists.
On upmarket Oxford Street, where it can be a challenge to walk due to the large number of shoppers and pedestrians, it is said that you can hear almost every known language spoken, except English.
The area's popularity with tourists has also attracted a considerable number of homeless and other economically deprived citizens from European Union countries, such as Romania, who use the Westminster area for begging and anti-social activities.
The situation is not linked to the Olympics, but Scotland Yard has launched Operation Chefornak in conjunction with the Romanian Embassy, Westminster City Council and the UK Border Agency to stop such activities in the popular tourist area.
The operation so far has seen 796 arrests and the issue of "cease and desist" warning letters to 73 individuals.
The fortnightly operations the Oxford Street, Edgware Road and Marble Arch areas are intended "to engage, disrupt and deter behaviour of this type", the police said.
Penalties include a geographical exclusion from the Westminster borough, valid for a period of up to three years, whereby any breach is an arrestable offence and liable for a custodial sentence.
Council Wardens have been removing the bedding and other belongings of beggars from undergrowth and bushes surrounding the Marble Arch area.
The items are often hidden away during the day, but the police said the tactic no longer worked.
Ian Hicks, Inspector for Operation Chefornak said: "Begging will not be tolerated in Westminster. Operation Chefornak has demonstrated the benefits of a multi-agency approach to this issue and the picture has significantly improved in recent months due to sustained co-ordinated activity".
The successful intervention of Council Wardens has been a major contributing factor in cleaning up the Marble Arch area, the police added.