BEGGING and anti-social behaviour are on the rise in Taunton due to the persistent use of legal high drugs and alcohol.

Police, who warn they won’t put up with inconsiderate actions impacting on others, are urging people not to give money to beggars, who sometimes use it for substance abuse rather than food.

Officers are combating the town centre problem with Operation Gratuity.

Taunton Town Centre team’s Sgt Neil Kimmins said the operation isn’t targeting the vulnerable.

He added: “Our intelligence suggests a minority of people have become dependent on alcohol and the latest legal high drugs for a number of reasons.

“In a minority of cases, they resort to begging to raise money to pay for these items.

“While organisations such as TAH provide support and housing for those who find themselves homeless and suffering with related health issues, not all people necessarily wish to engage with them.

“To disrupt and act in an anti-social manner in the town centre isn’t acceptable and won’t be tolerated.”

Sgt Kimmins, who met relevant agencies on Friday to discuss issues surrounding legal highs – also called new psychoactive substances - said: “The police have seen an increase in problems that have resulted through the use of legal highs.

“This has also been replicated by our partner emergency services and support agencies.

“Legal highs mirror the same effects as illegal class A and B drugs and the same negative medical consequences through abuse.

“But the fact that a substance is sold as legal to possess, doesn’t mean it’s safe.

“You cannot really be sure what’s in a legal high you’ve bought or been given, or what effect it’s likely to have on you.

“We’ve known the use of many legal highs has been directly linked to emergency hospital admissions and even death.”

A TAH spokesman said the organisation provides several services for the homeless.

He added: “We’re very concerned about the increasing availability of legal highs which are now readily on sale over the counter in Taunton shops.

“This is adding a new dynamic to our work and support needs are changing.

“If anyone sees a person asking for money or who is homeless, let us know as soon as possible and we’ll do our best to help.

“Please don’t give them money - you can help us to support them by making a donation to us.”