A county councillor has raised concerns about so-called “professional beggars” allegedly brought into his town from Newcastle.

In 2021, concerns were raised by police officers that beggars seen on Fore Street in Hexham could potentially be victims of modern slavery.

Cllr Trevor Cessford, the Conservative councillor for the Hexham Central with Acomb ward, said the issue was likely to resurface in the spring and summer as days get longer.

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Cllr Cessford was speaking during a local policing update at Tuesday’s meeting (March 19) of the Tynedale Local Area Committee. Tynedale Neighbourhood Inspector Kate Benson of Northumbria Police urged members of the public to come forward with any information.

Cllr Cessford said: “The days are getting longer and it is getting warmer, which means visitors to Hexham. There are modern slavery concerns about some of the beggars.

“Some of them are professional beggars. To be honest, one of the issues is the ones being brought in by car from Newcastle who have a home to go to. Some people are actually struggling, there is a difference.”

Insp Benson said: “If people can ring up, even give a time of day, a make and model of the vehicle or a partial registration. Sometimes the information we have just isn’t enough to make further inquiries.

“We are concerned about the potential exploitation of individuals and it is about actually safeguarding them. We haven’t had any calls this year about beggars, we’re not getting the information.

“It is a very complex problem.”

In 2021, a Northumbria Police Inspector said modern slavery was “very much an area of concern. It followed reports of different people seen on Fore Street holding identical signs asking for money.

At the time, Cllr Cessford said residents reported seeing beggars “dropped off” by car and picked up later that day, although it was not something he had witnessed himself.