A CITY councillor says there is a "real undercurrent" of crime in the heart of Winchester.

Councillor Ian Tait says he fears shoplifting, drug misuse and anti-social behaviour is on the rise in the city centre in recent weeks.

It comes as the city council is tackling the issue by sprucing up Middle Brook Street and Kings Walk, and also removing one of the anti-social hotspots - the Old Fountain.

Cllr Tait said:"The council is getting rid of the old fountain but petty crime is becoming a worry at the moment.

"The shops find that the criminals are becoming quite fearless and threatening to people in the shops, there is a feeling that nothing can be done against them.

"That undercurrent of drinking, drug taking and anti-social behaviour is getting worse not better.

"Staff at Mountain Warehouse they feel that if they turn their backs for a minute then someone will be stealing."

Cllr Tait said that bogus beggars are also an issue in Winchester, and that they are making a "significant" amount of money from it, he said although the council has done well in certain ways of tackling homelessness there is a sub-culture of alcohol and drugs on the streets.

Cllr Tait added: "People who give money to the beggars are hindering them because they will just go and spend it on drink and drugs."

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said:"Our neighbourhood policing team has a robust approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour by showing a visible presence in the centre of Winchester and carrying out enforcement action.

"This includes enforcing public order offences and seizing alcohol within the Alcohol Control Zone, along with regular covert and overt drugs operations in the city."