Edinburgh Fringe: Police undercover hunt thieves

Police will be on the lookout for thieves. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Police will be on the lookout for thieves. Picture: Ian Rutherford
4
Have your say

UNDERCOVER police patrols are set to target gangs of organised thieves who threaten to descend on the Capital during the Festival.

Plain-clothed officers and uniformed colleagues with be tasked with identifying thieves and pickpockets during the next month.

The police will look for thieves who threaten to ruin the Fringe. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The police will look for thieves who threaten to ruin the Fringe. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Officers will be working closely with council staff who monitor CCTV to pursue organised criminals using “distraction techniques” to fleece tourists and visitors.

The move follows the capture last year of a Romanian gang of pickpockets operating in the Princes Street area during the Festival. Other gangs from Glasgow have been known to travel to Edinburgh in search of “rich pickings”.

Additional officers from Glasgow and other regional areas will be drafted in to provide a “highly-visible” presence, augmented further by patrols by officers on bikes and horses.

Edinburgh’s city commander, Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, said today that tackling theft and violent crime and disorder would be the main priorities over the coming month under Operation Assure.

But he also urged tourists and residents to take their own security steps to avoid falling victim while continuing to enjoy the city’s events and nightlife.

Chief Supt Williams said: “Officers will be out on uniformed and plain-clothed patrols with a particular focus on organised thieves and pickpockets. These individuals are known to target busy areas, use distraction techniques, and try to take advantage of anyone in a vulnerable situation to steal from them.

“I would appeal to everyone to enjoy the city, but take care of both their belongings and physical wellbeing.”

The Romanian gang carried out thefts from bags, as well as shoplifting sprees, before being caught by a combined effort from officers and CCTV operators.

Police also warned that they were preparing for a rise in violent crime and disorder, due to packed pubs and clubs staying open later.

Chief Supt Williams added: “When you get thousands of tourists coming into the city, we do see a rise in some offences, particularly acquisitive crime where thieves target phones, handbags, purses and so on.

“We also see pubs and clubs which are busier at night and, when you add alcohol, it can lead to a rise in violent crime and disorder.”

An ad-trailer highlighting the force’s new 101 non-emergency number will be on display in the city centre while the Twitter account at 
@EdinburghPolice will deliver updates from the hashtag #FestivalPolicing.

Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s community safety leader, said: “Edinburgh is a safe city and we will be working closely with Police Scotland to make sure that this continues to be the case.

“I would encourage anyone with any concerns to contact the police and help us make this year’s Festival a safe and pleasant experience.”