MIDDLESBROUGH'S mayor has claimed criminal gangs are forcing addicts to beg on the streets in exchange for drugs.

Mr Preston has urged the public not to give money to people begging as he is concerned that the money will further the addictions of vulnerable people.

In a post on Facebook, he said: “When you see someone begging in Middlesbrough, it’s natural to feel sympathy and want to give them money. But this is my request: please don’t. That might sound heartless but it’s actually the opposite. It may be different in big cities but almost none of Middlesbrough’s beggars are homeless.

“The number of rough sleepers here are in single figures and, despite the continued best efforts of charity workers and council staff, they choose to sleep rough for a range of complex reasons. Most of the town’s beggars have homes and are on benefits but are addicted to drugs. They will spend any money they are given on drugs, so giving them money only feeds their addiction and deepens their problems.”

Read more: Guinness World Record attempt for North East care home with 'giant' display

However, there could also be an even darker underbelly to this, according to the mayor.

Mr Preston added: “Many of the town’s beggars are organised by criminal gangs who drop them off and give them set positions to beg. The gang then picks them up at the end of the day, takes the money they have collected, and “pays” them with more drugs to feed their addiction. So your well-intentioned cash donation is likely to be helping organised crime and feeding the drug addictions of vulnerable individuals.”

If people want to support the homeless or those suffering from substance abuse, Mr Preston has suggested donating to a recognised charity.

He also said that council staff would continue to work closely with charities to ensure there is support for those who want to be helped.


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054