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Press & Journal, 14 November 2007
by Calum Ross


Controversial "begging boxes" have been removed from the streets of Aberdeen city centre after becoming a target for thieves.

The scheme, the first of its kind in Scotland, was introduced in April this year in a bid to cut the level of aggressive begging in the city centre. 

Aberdeen City Council confirmed yesterday it had removed them and that the programme was under review.

The boxes, used by members of the public who want their donations to go towards food and blankets, had come to the attention of criminals.

It is believed thieves changed the padlocks on the boxes and emptied them regularly without being caught.

Sue Irving, business development director for city homeless charity Aberdeen Cyrenians, was not surprised.

"It's well documented that we have not supported the boxes because we don't see them as a sustainable solution to begging in the city," she said.

"It perhaps isn't surprising, it has not been particularly successful, but until the local authority tells us what they are planning, we are a bit in the dark."

It emerged in August that the five city centre boxes had raised just £348 in the first three months of the project.

A council spokesman said the scheme had not been abandoned and that indoor boxes in city shopping centres remained in place but that it was looking again at how to secure those outside.

Former Aberdeen artist in residence Eva Merz hit the headlines after placing stickers on the boxes which read: "Do you think a blanket and a meal is all it takes to help those who street beg in Aberdeen - the city council does."

She said yesterday it would take a lot more than a few boxes to get homeless people off the streets.

"If they are reconsidering it I certainly hope that this time they are going to take people's opinions into consideration. It's not just myself but the homeless charities who have said repeatedly they don't believe in it for various reasons," she said.

Aberdeen Community Safety Partnership chairman Martin Greig said yesterday the programme would continue.

"I'm very conscious of opposition to begging boxes and we have had to take action to protect the boxes, which is disappointing," he said.

"Begging boxes have been in place and used in big cities in England without any problems," he said. "They are fairly well established."