A recent street audit uncovered just five people begging for money on a busy Friday night.
That figure was seven before the multi-agency campaign begun, but recorded on a traditionally quieter Thursday night. There has also been a reduction of people begging during the day.
Cllr Rob Hannaford, Lead Councillor for Housing and Customer Access, said: "We have had good feedback on the campaign from businesses, shoppers and visitors. Everyone has been really supportive and the figures show that it is making a difference.
"We set out to try and change people's behaviour and inform those who may be inclined to give money to people begging that they don't need to do so - Exeter has enough support for those sleeping rough and it is better to give to the charities that support them instead."
All through the summer, stencilled messages have been sprayed onto the pavement at key spots in Exeter city centre in an attempt to stop aggressive and intimidating begging. The 'paint' is a biodegradable chalk that washes off after a while.
Among the pavement messages are:
PLEASE CONSIDER GIVING DIRECTLY TO CHARITY AND NOT TO PEOPLE WHO BEG
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT A LOCAL CHARITY?
The initiative has been carried out by Exeter City Council in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Police and Bournemouth Church Housing Association, and has the backing of other charities and support agencies in the city.
Businesses in the city claim the initiative has made a difference. Joe Hill, of Artigiano, said: "We’ve had positive feedback from customers that the campaign is beginning to make a difference in Exeter and certainly from a business perspective, we’ve seen fewer people begging in the city. It’s crucial that visitors feel comfortable and welcome in the city centre throughout the day and evening.”
Inspector Tanya Youngs, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said that the stencils campaign had heightened the awareness of the issue of aggressive and intimidating begging in Exeter.
"There has been an increase in the number of complaints from the public around this issue. This has allowed us to direct our resources and tackle the problem of aggressive and intimidating begging in the city. I am convinced that changing people’s understanding of these issues will help tackle the problem of begging in Exeter.”
Adrian Staegemann, Co-ordinator of BCHA’s Street Homeless Outreach Team, said: “The campaign has made a real difference - we're just not seeing the same level of begging in Exeter that we saw before the stencils went down.
“We work closely with Exeter City Council and other agencies to provide a variety of services and interventions for people rough sleeping, helping them to shelter from the streets and access nutritious hot food, warm clothing and medical help.”
The Big Issue has seen sales of its magazine go up since the campaign began. One of the stencilled messages encouraged people to buy a copy of the Big Issue as an alternative to giving to someone begging.
The partnership recognize that there are lots of reasons why people beg for money and understand that they may have complex needs and issues such as problematic drug use. Because of this the City Council and its support agencies regularly engage with those people who need the help in an appropriate way.
The Devon Drug and Alcohol Action Team have also backed the campaign. Kristian Tomblin, Drug and Alcohol Team Manager, said: “Any regular visitor to Exeter City Centre will be familiar with many of the faces of people begging on our City’s streets. They may also have noticed some new faces over the last year.
“Giving money to people who are begging reinforces this lifestyle choice and makes it more difficult for people to make other healthier choices.”
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