According to the New Straits Times the generosity of city folk in Johor Bahru when approached by beggars has allowed some of them to earn as much as RM300 daily, and up to a staggering RM10,000 per month.
The lucrativeness of their activity has pushed beggars to go all out to escape regular Social Welfare Department (JKM) crackdowns. By adjusting their tactics they are able to evade JKM crackdowns by shifting their “place of business” and operating at erratic hours.
The most common congregation point is at traffic lights at busy intersections in the city as this allows them to evade law enforcement easily.
“They carry out their activities at traffic lights because they are able to earn more money (while the lights are red), and it is easier for them to flee when they see enforcement vehicles (which cannot reach them in time due to) traffic congestion,” stated The New Straits Times report.
According to to JKM Johor Baru officer Normawarni Mahat, many rescued beggars are found to have been earning up to RM300 a day.
Amongst beggars rescued in recent months were two Rohingya women in their 30s, four children aged between 6 months and 3 years, a disabled man from Vietnam and three local men in their 50s who had been previously detained and charged under the Destitute Persons Act 1977.
Despite repeated warnings not to commit the same offence, the lucrativeness of the action causes many to continue begging.
Many of the beggars were found to be driven mainly by financial problems, unemployment and substance abuse issues such as alcohol and drug addiction.
“We hope that the public will not give in easily to beggars, as this will only encourage them to choose the easy way to get money and carry on with their activities,” Normawarni added.
Following this report we dug deeper into the Destitute Persons Act 1977 and found that it was created to provide for the care and rehabilitation of destitute persons and for the control of vagrancy. We wanted to understand what were the scope of powers afforded to law enforcement and what were the repercussions that could be imposed on beggars.
What happens to people who are detained under the DPA?
The Act gives administrative powers for the Minister in Charge (currently the Minister for Women, Family and Community) to establish and manage welfare homes and make any rules relating to the “care, control, discipline and rehabilitation of persons residing therein”. A destitute person can be produced “before a Magistrate within twenty-four hours”. The destitute person under the Act will then be sent to a welfare home temporarily pending a report by a social welfare officer (within one month).
How long do they have to stay at the welfare homes?
They can be ordered to stay at the homes for up to three years. This also applies to persons who come to the welfare homes voluntarily. They cannot leave without permission. Escaping from these homes or even resisting to be taken to a magistrate by the authorised persons would be an offence under this Act and if they are convicted in court they are liable to be sent to a welfare home or imprisonment up to three months.