GEORGE TOWN: A growing number of beggars are taking advantage of the kindness of locals.
In a bid to curb the menace, the Penang Welfare Department has put up messages on LED signboards around town to remind the public not to give money to beggars.
The state is believed to be the first in the country to put up messages such as “Bijak membantu, elak ditipu” (Offer help wisely to avoid being cheated).
Some of these beggars make up to RM300 a day, according to state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh.
“All they have to do is dress shabbily or show their disabilities,” he said.
Phee added that the number of beggars, including foreigners, soliciting donations on the streets is on the rise.
“We know Penangites are caring and helpful but this is precisely what the beggars are preying on.
“It is a good thing to help but we must be smart in choosing who to help and where to make donations.
“We hope the public will work with us and refrain from donating to every beggar they see on the street,” he said.
Phee, who recently launched the Bijak Membantu, Elak Tertipu campaign, urged the public to file a complaint with the Welfare Department if they are forced to donate in any means.
State Welfare Department director Shaballah Zainal Abidin said the number of beggars is rising based on data collected from its “Save the Poor” operations since 2014.
He said they helped 297 beggars – 104 of them foreigners – last year.
“This year, from January to October alone, we have helped 435 beggars, 93 of them foreigners.
“We have more and more beggars on the streets asking for donations or busking to earn money,” he said, adding that the act is illegal under the Destitute Persons Act 1977.
“Most of them are using the names of religious institutions or welfare homes to prey on the public as they know they will get more donations this way,” he said.
He reminded members of the public who wish to help the needy to send their donations to registered charity homes or the National Welfare Foundation.