BEGGARS could be issued with police warnings as part of a new multi-agency scheme aimed at tackling the issue in Colchester town centre.

The initiative, led by Essex Police's Colchester Town Centre Team in conjunction with the NHS, Open Road and Colchester Borough Homes, will see members of the homeless community who are found to be begging invited to an intervention centre in Culver Street East.

There they will be able to access support towards securing accommodation and help with issues including substance misuse.

If they do not attend they could receive a Community Protection Warning, which may lead to a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) being issued in the future.

The community-led initiative is supported by Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet who is the national policing lead for anti-social behaviour, homelessness and arson.

It is being adopted in Colchester after being developed by City of London Police who saw a decrease in the number of beggars on the streets after implementing it.

Rob Huddleston, district commander for Colchester, said: "This is the first multi-agency drop-in of its kind in Essex and we are really excited to have received so much support from partners to ensure we can provide a range of support to our vulnerable homeless community.

“We know that many are targeted by criminals and exploited and with it now being winter our homeless community face even greater challenges.

"Working together we can make a positive difference, and keep people safe.”

Following work by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and charity Crisis the initiative will be rolled-out nationally at the beginning of 2020.