A pair of beggars dressed as clowns who target young families with aggressive tactics should be banned from Edinburgh city centre, a councillor has said.
The men often work together on the Capital’s busiest streets round about Waverley Station, The Scott Monument and the bottom of the Mound.
Their money-making scheme involves one of the beggars thrusting 5p balloons into the hands of children completely unsolicited, and then demanding at least £1 from parents.
If parents refuse, the second clown often arrives to help his friend convince them into paying or handing the balloon back.
Kimberly Williamson, 25, and her daughter were approached by the fair who then forced balloons into her daughter’s hand and face on two separate occasions.
The first incident occurred outside of H&M across from Waverley Station where the first man forced a balloon into her daughter’s hand.
Ms Williamson then attempted to give the man 50p before he berated her angrily for £1. Her daughter, who is not being named, was then forced to hand back the balloon when she refused.
The second incident happened just outside Jenners where another clown forced a balloon in her daughter’s face.
Ms Williamson who was on her way to Clarks to buy her daughter shoes for school said that both incidents had left her daughter terrified and afraid to go back to Princes Street.
She added: “The first clown forced a balloon into my daughter’s hand and when I offered to pay him 50p he started acting aggressive and demanding £1.
“He then took the balloon back before we encountered the second clown outside Jenners who forcefully put a balloon in my daughter’s face. I saw the same man then try to drop a balloon into a buggy but the parent dodged him whilst going past.
“It would be different if they asked first before forcing the balloons upon children. If I had been up here with my younger kids and they wanted to keep the balloon then what would have happened? Would he just have snatched it from their hands?”
An Edinburgh Evening News journalist confronted one of the two clowns yesterday in order to find out why they were using such tactics.
Communicating through google translate, one of the clowns claimed to be a Romanian national and was open about their tactics of giving the balloon to a child and then demanding money from the unsuspecting parent. He admitted that he would take the balloon back from the child if no payment was provided.
Councillor Jo Mowat, City Centre, said: “The experience described to me of this mother and daughter is unnerving and distressing. The whole ordeal sounds terrifying and this type of behaviour is causing fear and alarm. No parent should be forced to donate to avoid the scene of a hysterical child who has just had a balloon snatched from them in the middle of Princes Street.
“This sounds like an example of aggressive begging and I will be making the police aware so that they are able to get involved and resolve the issue.”