Romanian begging gangs are flooding into London to target shoppers in the run-up to Christmas, it was claimed today.
Council officials say they are seeing a surge in the number of Eastern Europeans sleeping rough in Westminster in recent weeks.
The groups - mostly Roma gypsies - are behind hundreds of offences of robbery, pickpocketing and begging.
Figures show that since an operation to target beggars was launched in November last year nearly 1,000 people have been warned about sleeping rough in central London.
Nearly 700 people have been cautioned or arrested for begging offences while 215 people have been arrested for more serious crimes.