A CRACKdown on aggressive beggars in Newport city centre was a success, say police, who are warning of more tough action in the future.

Inspector Geraint Evans, of Newport central police, said Operation Chipmunk, which began in June, was set in motion following complaints that people were demanding money with menaces at cash points and underpasses.

Eight people have now been dealt with by the courts for begging offences. As reported, one of them, a 23-year-old heroin addict from Oxford, Hayley Burns, pleaded guilty to begging at the end of July at Newport magistrates court.

Magistrates were told she approached shoppers in the city centre, crying and asking for money for a train ticket. She was given a 12 month conditional discharge.

Inspector Evans said: "All the people who were aggressively begging within Newport centre have now either moved on to different locations or stopped.

"They were particularly targeting vulnerable people in locations where people pass regularly. The underpass from the railway station to Cambrian Road was one area because it channels people and they are unable to cross the road to avoid them."

Inspector Evans said the offenders had been given opportunities of help or referred to social services.

City councillor Bob Bright, cabinet member for community safety, said: "Aggressive begging was initially brought to the attention of the rangers, but where people are asking for money with menaces we felt it was the police who should act.

"I think it was mostly at the cash points where they would wait for people to get money out then suggest they give them a fiver.

"We will continue to be vigilant. If anybody thinks they can coerce or threaten people into giving them money they had better be warned the council and rangers' service won't tolerate it and neither will the police.

"What I would encourage people to do is come forward immediately and make a complaint if they are threatened or feel intimidated by anyone in the city centre.

"We want to raise the image of Newport and while I'm sympathetic if people are homeless, there are avenues and benefits they should explore."