Major Finnish cities such as Helsinki are for the first time coming to grips with the kinds of panhandling seen in other European cities. In some cases, beggars have been soliciting handouts from motorists or even claiming to be collecting funds for charitable causes.
Helsinki police say they have not yet received any criminal complaints about the new panhandling phenomenon, in which beggars approach motorists for handouts. However the practice has been brought to their attention.
“We haven’t received any criminal complaints about this kind of activity in Helsinki, but nowadays in the news we hear of many different incidents around the country. They have apparently been stopping people and motorists and trying to get money,” said Detective Chief Inspector Ilkka Juola of the panhandlers.
Familiar practices in the rest of the world
Cities in other parts of Europe, such as Tallinn and Paris are already familiar with another kind of street begging. In Tallinn, police have cracked down hard on illegal solicitation, which in many cases is orchestrated by the same individuals.
According to Juola Finnish officials are also working to clear the streets of these kinds of panhandlers once they are caught in the act, or when a criminal complaint is lodged.
“In some cases they provide misleading information. From our point of view this is just another ploy to get money. If a person intentionally claims to be collecting money for some other cause, it can constitute a fundraising offence,” Juola added.
Illegal fundraising a criminal offence
Attempting to collect funds for charitable causes is not in itself a criminal offence if people have not donated money or if the sums involved are small. Rather it becomes a criminal activity if it is a repetitive and premeditated.
“In such a case, we are basically talking about fraud or attempted fraud. According to the law we can impose a fine or a maximum prison sentence of two years,” the crime buster said.
Juola noted that in the past few days police have received several reports of these new kinds of panhandling.
“We have had reports of beggars coming from Europe. This seems to be a new method that people are using to collect money,” he added.
- Sources: Yle