A POLICE operation targeted at people "responsible" for rough sleeping and begging in Croydon last week did not result in any arrests.
Officers took to the streets last Friday to continue a crackdown on those "responsible" for rough sleeping and begging.
They were told to "engage, disrupt and deter people involved in such behaviour" and to make arrests and issue antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos) "where appropriate".
It follows an identical crackdown in January this year, during which police attracted criticism after saying they would take action against those who "commit" rough sleeping.
Police targeted six "hotspots" across London: Westminster, Camden, Croydon, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark.
A total of 37 people across London were "arrested and processed" by the police and border officials, Scotland Yard said, and 35 people were given cease-and-desist notices.
In Croydon, police confiscated alcohol on eight occasions but did not make any arrests relating to rough sleeping or begging.
Jad Adams, chairman of homeless charity Nightwatch, described the crackdown – called Operation Encompass – as misguided. "If we had been consulted, we would have helped to make sense of a confused policy that conflates a number of issues and problems that relate to different areas," he said.
"Rough sleeping is an expression employed to give the impression that grinding poverty is, in fact, a lifestyle choice.
"If people are street homeless, that is a failing in society, not a manifestation of 'antisocial behaviour'. Improved housing strategies will help them, not more police action. Aggressive begging really is antisocial behaviour and it is in everyone's interest that it is stopped. The police have powers to do this and need no special campaign."
Mr Adams said police were taking issues in Westminster and unfairly applying them to other areas of London.
He added: "Croydon is in no way a 'hotspot' as Westminster is, and I suspect the other boroughs targeted in this way also have their own particular problems which should not be conflated with those of Westminster."
Last week's operation involved the police, local authorities and other agencies. Rough sleepers, the police said, were offered "assistance through support services and arrests are made where offences are identified".
The operation focused on EU nationals who "abuse free movement rights for fraud", the police added. In January, the authorities were given more power to remove those people from the UK.
Mr Adams said: "The police should work with the border staff to ensure that anyone who is involved in antisocial behaviour and comes from an EU country is genuinely fulfilling their treaty obligations and working or looking for work. If they are not, they can be deported.
"On the other hand, we want to help those people who have come here looking for work to enter the legitimate economy."
Last month, Croydon Council launched campaign to make the town's streets safer. It saw 'Alcohol-free zone' signs placed around the town centre in order to "reinforce the message that street drinking is an offence".
A year earlier an operation by the police, Croydon Business Improvement District (BID), the police and Westminster Drug Project (WDP) saw 185 people being referred for help with substance abuse, 47 arrests and more than 1,250 alcohol seizures.