Beggars on the streets of a city are earning as much as hard-working professionals according to police – the equivalent of a £20,000 annual salary.
Officers estimate that city centre beggars in Lincoln masquerading as homeless people regularly take home up to £40 a day rising to as much as £100 a day on weekends.
Working a six-day week they can earn £300 untaxed income a week which could give them an annual salary of £15,600.
After tax and National Insurance deductions those on a salary of £20,000 take home £15,391.85 annually – potentially less than a professional beggar.
Officers from Lincolnshire police have launched a new operation to get beggars off the streets and to prosecute persistent offenders.
Mark Garthwaite, Lincoln city centre neighbourhood policing inspector, said three men had already been arrested in the city centre for begging – which is illegal.
He said: ”While we do have people who live on the streets of Lincoln with serious personal and financial problems, there are also some who are simply using this as a way of making money and sometimes they are threatening and intimidating.
”We are aware of one man who begs in the city centre who is not homeless, but regularly makes more than £50 a day. For me, this is tantamount to theft.”
Begging was made a recordable offence in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 but does not carry a prison sentence.