Auckland City Council is cracking down on beggars, increasing its focus on enforcing a by-law which makes begging illegal.

The crackdown comes as the number of complaints the council received about beggars in March rose to 154, from 94 in February, its safety adviser, Betty Maclaren, said.

The increase in complaints was probably because there were more security people on duty who enforced the by-law, she said.

"There might be the same number of beggars on the street but the enforcement has improved," she said.

When people are caught begging they are normally just moved on, but if they continue they can be given a warning or a trespass notice if they are on private property, she said.

The increased pressure being placed on begging was just part of a strategy aimed at fighting anti-social behaviour which included solvent abuse, fighting and sleeping on the street, she said.

The team leader of Auckland City Mission homeless service, Wilf Holt, said the majority of people begging were not homeless people.

"I know there is a reasonable number of them coming in from the suburbs and doing their begging and then packing up and going home."

He said many were "treating it a bit like work".

People had to be in a pretty desperate situation to start begging, he said.

"The vast majority of people would be horrified at the thought that they might be seen begging on the streets of Auckland."

Wellington City Council has also had an increase in the number of complaints about begging, but still only received about four or five in the past 12 months, Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said.

This was a rise from a usual one or two complaints every 12 months, Mr MacLean said.

- NZPA