POLICE officers have responded to criticism of a drive to clampdown on begging in the town centre.

Last week the Leader reported that Wrexham Council's town centre manager Amanda Davies had circulated a letter among town businesses asking staff to report hotspots after a noticeable rise in begging.

The letter stressed that support is also being offered to those begging, but those who are persistent could be targeted with a fixed penalty notice or even taken to court.

On Saturday morning officers arrested a man for begging in St George's Crescent, in the town centre.

Town inspector Paul Wycherley said there is genuine sympathy among officers for those genuinely in need, but added there were others whose begging is becoming increasingly intimidating for members of the public and a distinction has to be made.

He said: “There has been an increase in reports of begging in the town centre.

“We work with our partners from Wrexham Council and for some time now we have signposted people to the relevant agencies.

“There is a really difficult balance to strike between people who are in genuine need and our officers do direct those people to third-sector providers.

“But there are also some individuals using these begging methods to gain money to fund their drug addictions and we have reports from members of the public that these methods have become increasingly intimidating.”

He added: “I’m aware that some members of the public think we are not acting proportionately but I must stress that an arrest is not the first resort – in all probability it is the last.

“We continue to engage with individuals who are in need but we have to balance that with the rights of members of the public going about their business in the town centre.”

Community Sergeant Claire McGrady added: “We have increased foot patrols in the town centre and if members of the public wish to speak to officers we are more than happy to engage with them.

“This is a joint approach between ourselves, businesses and the local council.”