Beggars, buskers, drunks and ‘chuggers’ are dragging down Morecambe town centre at a time when it should be on the up.
This was the claim at a town hall meeting where Morecambe politicians and police spoke about how best to tackle the problem at the heart of the town’s shopping area.
Police have vowed to take action after complaints about homeless people asking for money, noisy buskers and ‘charity muggers’ harassing shoppers on the Euston Road precinct.
Shopkeepers and shoppers have also complained about drunks sat around in the square near the Arndale Centre.
A Euston Road shop owner said she feared they were putting people off coming into town.
Calls for police to ‘clean up’ the town centre came as work continues on a major street surface and traffic revamp of the Euston Road, Market Street and Victoria Street areas.
Morecambe town councillor Tricia Heath said: “At a time when we are trying to bring the town up, we would like to nip this type of thing in the bud.”
Carol Taylor from hair salon Gordon Carol on Euston Road said: “We’ve been here for 14 years and it’s started to get bad over the past couple of years.
“We’ve got beggars, drunks, charity muggers and buskers, and I think it’s putting people off coming into town.
“People who come down here every day must be fed up of being harrassed. You don’t need it.
“There were three beggars up and down outside all day yesterday. The police have kind of ignored them.
“The Lancaster City Council road works aren’t coming up as far as us. We’re spending a lot of money on doing up our shop front so I’ll be on to the council asking them to keep this area clean too.”
Morecambe Town Council debated the problem at a meeting on Thursday night after a complaint from a member of the public.
Sergeant Lindsay Brown of Morecambe police said at the meeting: “Begging is an offence.
“It is something I personally take a dim view of. We don’t have an issue with begging in the town centre but we do have an issue with homeless people.
“We need evidence from members of the public. Give us a statement and we can quite easily deal with them. “There are some homeless people who don’t beg but members of the public feel obliged to give them money. We’d advise them not to. They are not committing any offences by sitting on a bench but as police officers we have to use our discretion and take action where we can.
“The regular faces you might recognise from the town centre, the number of times we have tried to refer them to other services, you couldn’t count them. These people have complex needs. But we will keep trying.”
Coun Claire Cozler asked: “What can we do about the charity muggers? I have a neighbour who is disabled and they won’t leave her alone. They keep harrassing her into setting up a direct debit in the middle of the street.”
Sgt Brown said: “If they are making people uncomfortable to that point, then we would deal with it with words of advice.”
Charity muggers, also known as ‘chuggers’, try to cajole passersby into donating money to charities. They are subject to strict regulations.
Councillors also asked about the police’s attitude to noisy street musicians or buskers.
Sgt Brown said: “In other cities, they promote busking as a way of having a thriving town centre with entertainment. My own view is that it depends on what the public want. If we get complaints about a particularly aggressive guitar player we would intervene.”
Lancaster City Council has set guidelines which ask buskers to keep noise levels down, perform for a maximum of one hour in one area with no return within two hours, play acoustically if possible and keep away from cash machines.