A dozen people have been arrested in the first week of a drive to clear beggars and street drinkers from the centre of Brighton and Hove.

Police have warned 71 people about begging and arrested five persistent offenders since the new city centre policing area became operational.

Chief Inspector Stuart Harrison said the five were all receiving housing benefit and social security payments.

He said seven disorderly street drinkers had also been arrested as part of the drive, mostly from areas that had been turned into no-go zones for people who live or work nearby.

He said police involved in the operation were working alongside social services and drink rehabilitation workers to help beggars and street drinkers.

Mr Harrison said: "We are not an army of occupation. This is a benevolent watch on our city. The public wants the police to do something about it and we are trying to do something.

"The bottom line is the sheer number of street drinkers and beggars in Brighton is starting to affect the attractiveness of the city for visitors and impact on the quality of life for people who live and work here."

He said the drive was being co-ordinated with officers in areas surrounding the city centre to make sure the problem was not moved outwards to the suburbs.

City centre manager Tony Mernagh welcomed the initiative, saying there were organisations and policies in place to help people on the streets.

He said begging and street drinking was damaging Brighton and Hove's reputation.

He said: "A lot of visitors are shocked, a lot of overseas visitors are shocked.

"It gives out a false impression that people don't care about beggars and they do. I would applaud the philosophy the police have adopted."

The city centre policing area became operational on April 9, when the new Brighton and Hove police division was formed.