Auckland homeless people seeking booze, food, cash and cigarettes appear to be targeting Asians in the city because of their generosity.
The issue came to a boil when a group of rough-sleepers entered a cafe in the CBD and demanded smokes and money from the mainly Chinese and Korean customers.
Auckland's Asian communities have been on edge following a spate of attacks.
Homelessness has also been in the spotlight this week, as Wellington councillors debated a ban on street begging.
The cafe incident unfolded on a Sunday afternoon last month, when five homeless men entered Esquires on Courthouse Lane.
Cafe staff discouraged customers from giving the men cash or cigarettes, which prompted the beggars to start throwing ashtrays and sugar containers from the tables.
One attacked a male staff member.
A man was arrested and given a trespass notice from Esquires Cafe, and officers are now being deployed in the area to prevent any anti-social and criminal behaviour.
"A man who had been asked to leave the store had become unruly and members of the public assisted the store manager until police arrived," a police spokeswoman said.
She said the man was arrested for disorderly behaviour.
A female cafe manager, who did not want to be named, yesterday told the Herald the customers were mostly Chinese and Korean.
She believed they had been targeted because they were generous when asked for cigarettes or money.
The manager said the incident had left her shaken and traumatised.
"We have been targeted so many times . ... our tip box had been stolen, bottled drinks taken and I even lost my cellphone," she said.
"I recognise these people because I see them sleeping rough on Queen St, and I am worried because their numbers are increasing."
Earlier this year, a break-in at Sam Snead's House of Whiskey across the road resulted in $10,000 worth of liquor being stolen.
Business owner Sam Snead said he had now installed a security folding gate between his glass shop front and his stock to make it harder for the thieves.
Mr Snead said he now stopped any "rough people" from stepping into his store after he had seen them openly take items and walk out without paying.
"These guys are just nasty human beings," he said. "They are rude, nasty and so aggressive now, that they just openly walk in, grab an item they want and walk away."
He believed the group was of about 15 men, aged between 18 and 25.
Manvir Singh, 21, manager of Courthouse Lane Grocer, said theft and abuse by inner-city rough sleepers was a "regular occurrence" at his store.
"They steal mainly bottled liquor and food items and they abuse us by using all sorts of bad language if they don't get it," Mr Singh said.
On one occasion, an empty whiskey bottle was hurled at his colleague, thrown by one of the men from outside the shop.
"I am worried that it will be just a matter of time before someone gets really hurt," Mr Singh said.
The police spokeswoman said foot patrols targeted any anti-social or criminal behaviour in the area.
This week, police launched a new safety initiative called Cop Chat - a weekly forum at Auckland Central Library - aimed at helping Asian students who feel intimidated by crime.