Muscat: Organised begging gangs are operating on the streets of Muscat, and police have warned citizens not to give them money.
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Begging gangs are descending on Muscat in the run up to Ramadan and more are seen on the streets, according to an official at the Ministry of Social Development.
“Such beggars have different ways to beg for money from the public and they work in a network, making it harder for us to arrest them while begging,” said Hamood Al Mandhari, Director of Social Development at the Ministry of Social Development.
Al Mandhari explained that they target moving vehicles, houses and mosques and they even have “spotters” or people watching out for police.
“Such beggars hide people around the area to alert them once any security bodies reach the area,” said Al Mandhari. He also explained that the gangs don’t follow the old ways of begging.
“It is an organised crime. They carefully plan their act and someone is looking closely and stands ready for any emergency to come and picks them away,” said Al Mandhari.
He added that the way they work shows that this is a network and such crime is considered as work to them. “They knock doors and people allow them to enter their houses showing sympathy to such criminals,” said Al Mandhari. He explained that there are some who really financially suffer but that giving them money on the street is not the right way to help them.
“There are other ways and authorities who study the public cases and support the needy financially. Giving such beggars any amount of money will not help but increase the number of beggars in our society,” said Al Mandhari.
He said the directorate receives many strange complaints from the public regarding beggars. “Beggars now, especially women, stop cars for dropping them and then during the journey they beg money,” said the Al Mandhari. He added that motorists should make their first stop after allowing such beggars to sit inside their cars the police station. They shouldn’t open any chance for such beggars.
“Don’t stop your car for strangers and don’t open your house door for strangers,” says Al Mandhari, adding that they keep on advising the public but it seems there are some who don’t listen or don’t take it seriously. “These people have no problem to go back to begging after being arrested because it’s a job for them and they will not stop until the public stand beside the concerned authorities,” Al Mandhari said.
Beggars use the Ramadan, which is starting this week, to take advantage of fasting Muslims by exploiting their faith.
Anyone found begging in public or private places shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two months and not exceeding one year and a fine not less than OMR50 and not more than OMR100, as shown in the begging punishment in the official website of the Ministry of Social Development.
If the beggar is not Omani then he will also be expelled from the country. If the beggar repeats the crime, he will be sentenced for not less than six months and not exceeding two years.
Moreover, anyone using children or helps for begging shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than three months and not more than three years and a fine not less than OMR50 and not more than OMR100. The Ministry statistics show that the number of beggars arrested in 2014 is less compared to 2015. 612 beggars were arrested in 2015 including 226 nationals and another 386 expats while 835 were arrested in 2014.