Kingston Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) arrested 13 people in efforts to break up a 'large group' of beggars operating in Kingston Town Centre.

Kingston MPS said Tuesday (April 16) that the operation was conducted earlier this year, in February, and followed an investigation started back in August 2018.

In total 13 arrests were made, with three people cautioned and a further 10 being charged.

Describing the context of the arrests, Kingston MPS said: "This protracted investigation began at the end of August 2018 when a large group of beggars moved into the loading bay behind River Island.

"Over the following months they used this area as their base while generating large incomes from begging which were then sent abroad by direct transfer or by leaving the country (only to return soon afterwards and begin the cycle all over again)."

The borough police force added that nearby workers at River Island and Vodafone were made to feel unsafe by the group, who were also approached by homelessness charity Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH) in conjunction with the investigation but reportedly refused their help.

After issuing warnings, Kingston MPS moved to arrest members of the group in February.

After arrests were made and charges brought, over a thousand pounds in fines were issued as a result of the operation.

Kingston MPS said: "13 arrests were made, often with significant ‘earnings’ in their possession.

"In total three were cautioned and ten charged – totalling £1055 fines and costs & one conditional discharge. Finally on 18th February 2019 contractors erected gates to prevent trespassers accessing the loading bay."

KCAH were contacted for comment on their involvement in the operation.