A new wave of “scammers” has hit the city centre, targeting Christmas shoppers, according to a number of city centre business owners.
According to city business owners, the group of beggars, seemingly working together, are wearing Santa Claus outfits and approaching pedestrians in the Thomas Street and O’Connell Street areas offering them lollipops. When the shopper takes the lollipop he or she is badgered for a payment.
Ciara Moroney, manager of Carl Scarpa, elaborated: “They [the beggars] are driving customers away. They literally walk up to shoppers, shoving lollipops in their faces ... They’d often hang around our door waiting for customers to come out and then they harass them for money.”
Louise Kennedy, from Name It, said: “It just paints a bad image of Limerick City. We’re struggling as it is and I think it’s driving customers away from the city centre because people do not want to be hassled.”
Further knock on effects are occurring on the city’s streets according to Ms Moroney. She explained: “People that are being deterred by these beggars will be more reluctant to give to anyone else asking for money on the street, which is irritating because there are many people campaigning for charitable organisations who might get overlooked.”
Another person who wished to remain anonymous explained in an email to the Limerick Leader on Monday how this group of beggars is targeting children: “I went into Limerick city with my kids last Saturday and I was really annoyed to see beggars on every street corner ...
“[They were] stand-ing on a box and handing out lollipops to innocent children and of course if the child takes the sweets they have the hand out looking for payment.”
The local person continued: “We decided to go for some food in a nearby fast food restaurant and as we ate, a group of six of these beggars arrived in and demanded they use the toilet.
“When told it was for customer use only they produced some money-off vouchers and ordered some coffee and tea, made loads of noise and were very intimidating.”
Attempts by Leader to obtain a comment from the beggars failed as they quickly departed the area when approached.