Bike thugs hurl rocks at police on patrol in Capital

Police in Edinburgh, in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, are relaunching Stronger North for 2017 following a recent rise in antisocial behaviour and crime. Picture: Jon Savage
Police in Edinburgh, in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, are relaunching Stronger North for 2017 following a recent rise in antisocial behaviour and crime. Picture: Jon Savage

LAWLESS joyriders hurled rocks at police cars before speeding off on stolen motorbikes in five separate attacks.

The patrol vehicles suffered smashed windscreens and dented panelling in Pilton and Muirhouse over the last two weekends.

Motorbike joyriding is a problem in the North of the Capital.

Motorbike joyriding is a problem in the North of the Capital.

Luckily, officers in the marked cars at the time escaped unharmed while the Capital’s top cop condemned those 
responsible.

“An attack on my officers is an attack on the community,” said chief superintendent Kenny MacDonald.

“This reckless action is putting my officers and other road users in danger and won’t be tolerated,” he added, predicting arrests in coming days.

Chief Superintendent MacDonald was speaking at the launch of the Stronger North 2017 crackdown on motorbike crime.

Ongoing anti-social behaviour has included use of stolen motorcycles and acts of violence is being targeted by police. Picture; Jon Savage

Ongoing anti-social behaviour has included use of stolen motorcycles and acts of violence is being targeted by police. Picture; Jon Savage

Extra police will be pounding the beat over the summer holidays with dog handlers and the force helicopter drafted in.

More than 50 officers were on duty at the weekend, making 14 arrests and stopping 12 stolen or illegal vehicles, including four motorbikes.

Joyriding has plagued the north of the city in recent years, with summer holidays seeing a spike in bikes being stolen and ridden recklessly.

Tragedy struck last June when 14-year-old Brad Williamson was killed falling from a stolen bike when it collided with a car in Silverknowes Road.

Residents of Muirhouse report a community living in fear as joyriders terrorise the 
neighbourhood.

“It’s worse than ever,” said an 82-year-old who declined to be named for fear of reprisals. “I’ve seen them driving right through the middle of Muirhouse Shopping Centre with people diving out of the way in the last couple of days.

“It’s frightening because some of these bikes are pretty powerful.

“I was driving my car in Pennywell Road yesterday and two guys on a bike with no helmets cut right in front of me and gave me the ‘V’ sign.

“I had to slam on the brakes and could’ve easily hit the back wheel. If I had, they’d be dead – it’s terrifying.

“They go along Pennywell Road at 100mph and I’m not exaggerating – it’s every day and every night, right through the night. There’s been cats killed by motorbikes and now there’s talk of vigilantism – it’s got that bad.”

Robert Pearson, chair of the local tenants’ organisation, said the problem was getting worse and that people were living in constant fear.

He said: “This involves a minority of young people but unfortunately that minority is growing in numbers.

“It’s not just at night, it’s all the time. It’s intimidating for residents who are scared of being involved in an accident and the peace is constantly disturbed by powerful motorbikes being driven at speed outside their homes and the police helicopter flying low overhead.

“Last week in the area around Pennywell Road, where there is a cluster of four schools, we had four people on one motorbike, all without helmets, driving around frightening people.”

SNP MSP Ben Macpherson said it was important not to “tar all young people with the same brush” with many in Pilton going on to do “extraordinary things.”

He added: “I’m absolutely delighted at the re-energisation and reinvigoration of Stronger North.

“I’d encourage everyone in the community to keep reporting instances – it’s a strong, vibrant area working together to tackle this problem.”

Fellow MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton from the Lib Dems labelled it a city-wide problem, with bikes stolen from guesthouses before being ridden around Pilton.

“These young people aren’t born bad,” said Mr Cole-Hamilton, a former youth worker of 19 years. “They have grown up with fewer opportunities which reduces their self-expectations and self-worth.”

Tory councillor for the Forth ward that covers Muirhouse and Pilton, Jim Campbell, welcomed the use of national resources for the crackdown.

“It’s critical we try and apprehend those responsible,” he said.

The Stronger North 2017 partnership between police, the city council and Crown comes after an escalation of bikes thefts.

About 80 stolen motorcycles have been recovered in North Edinburgh this year so far.

“It is unacceptable for a small core group of individuals to behave in this manner and it will not be tolerated,” said chief superintendent MacDonald.

“Police Scotland is utilising national resources to tackle local priorities and this will be evident throughout the coming days.

“We will be targeting all offenders who undertake any form of antisocial behaviour or criminality.

“We recognise that this behaviour is not reflective of the North Edinburgh community.

“It is essential that the local community continues to work with us to apprehend those taking part in antisocial behaviour and holds them to account.

“Our local officers will be very visible and I would encourage any of the local community to speak to them as they are on patrol.”

Chief superintendent MacDonald urged people to report crime, in confidentiality, to his officers out on patrol.

“By working together we can tackle antisocial behaviour and bring those responsible to 
justice,” he added.

Peter Strong, North West Locality Manager, pledged the city council’s support in the crackdown, including CCTV 
monitoring.

“Tackling crime and creating safer communities has been recognised as a priority for the council and partners in consultation on the North West Locality Improvement Plan,” he said.

“We work closely with Police Scotland, partner agencies, community groups and the public on specific initiatives such as Stronger North.

“Motorbike theft and riding motorbikes dangerously without thought to pedestrians or passers-by has been an ongoing problem in this area, and can have tragic consequences too. We are committed to doing everything in our power to help prevent this behaviour and to keep people and property safe.”

andy.shipley@jpress.co.uk