Bike thefts responsible for 22% increase in stolen vehicles

Youths in Pilton Park with a suspected stolen motorbike.
Youths in Pilton Park with a suspected stolen motorbike.
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THE total number of crimes in the Capital in the first quarter of 2016-17 has fallen from 8312 to 7421 – a drop of 10.7 per cent.

A 1.9 per cent fall in violent crimes included a drop in robberies from 60 to 39, while serious and common assaults both remained almost unchanged at 88 and 1546.

Members of The Riders Club Edinburgh. Picture: Scott Louden

Members of The Riders Club Edinburgh. Picture: Scott Louden

Drugs crimes were down from 539 to 480 – a fall of 10.9 per cent – while sexual crimes saw a 17 per cent drop.

Chief Supt Kenny Macdonald said it was partly due to some major inquiries which had been running last year. He said: “We’re still seeing a high historical level of reporting in the city, which I think is very much a positive in terms of the confidence of victims to come forward to the police and other agencies.”

An increase in young people stealing motorbikes has fuelled a 22 per cent jump in vehicle thefts in the Capital in the latest crime statistics.

Police reported an overall drop of 10.7 per cent in crime in Edinburgh for the three months to June – significantly better than the national fall of two per cent.

The number of break-ins to houses in the Capital dropped by a third, violent crime dipped by 1.9 per cent and vandalism was down ten per cent.

Edinburgh commander Chief Superintendent Kenny Macdonald said the picture as a whole was encouraging.

He said: “Overall it’s a very positive start to the year with crime falling in the city.

“I’m particularly pleased to see the reduction in housebreaking which is the number-one issue for the people of Edinburgh, but we are not complacent. We are aware as we move into the darker nights that type of crime tends to rise and we ask members of the public to support us by taking on board the crime prevention advice we issue, much of which is no cost or low cost, to secure property and continue to report any suspicious activity.”

But he highlighted the increase in motorbike thefts and associated antisocial behaviour as a cause for concern.

Thefts of motor vehicles between April and June totalled 251 – a 22.4 per cent increase on the 205 stolen in the same period last year.

“Many of these thefts have involved motorcycles,” said Chief Supt Macdonald.

Often residents, particularly in the north-east and north-west of the city, will phone the police to complain about antisocial behaviour by teenagers on stolen bikes, revving engines and causing a nuisance.

Chief Supt Macdonald said: “It’s an exceptionally dangerous activity because many of them will be riding these bikes without helmets, often driving at speed, sometimes riding off road and placing themselves and other people in danger.” But in July police launched Operation Soteria, dedicated to tackling motorbike theft and associated antisocial behaviour.

Superintendent Richard Horan, who is leading the campaign, said it includes the use of decoy bikes.

“We place a decoy bike in a location where we believe that these crimes are occurring and then when people steal the motorcycle we can act on it.”

He said six people had been arrested and charged as a result.

“It’s something we’re looking to do on an ongoing basis.”

Operation Soteria also involves the use of cameras against the motorbike thieves after reports from residents.

Supt Horan said: “A lot of the antisocial use of motorbikes is in areas where there is no CCTV coverage, so we have deployed officers with high definition cameras to go into these areas. It has been having a disruptive effect and preventing crime.”

The cameras have been used in Muirhouse, Craigmillar and Southhouse among other places.

And police are also making unannounced visits to addresses of people who might be involved in motorbike thefts to check on what they are up to.

“Prevention is absolutely key here,” said Supt Horan. “The public are doing a tremendous amount to assist us in tackling these offences and they can continue to do so by reporting any suspicious activity, vehicles they think are abandoned or left in strange circumstances.”

However, motorbike group Riders Club Edinburgh has complained that not enough is being done to deter the crooks despite the latest crackdown.

The club, which has more than 600 members, claimed there was sometimes evidence on social media – pictures of the culprits posing with stolen bikes – but no action had been taken.

President Carl Grundy said: “As a club we are doing all we can to ensure all of our members are keeping their motorbikes as secure as possible to prevent this crime from happening.

“My bikes are my life, but if £10,000 got stolen from a shop, I get the impression it would be treated a lot more seriously than if one of our bikes worth £10,000 got stolen.”

“Many of those stealing bikes are teenagers. They ride them around the city at high speeds on the roads and pedestrian pavements, causing safety risks for others.

“Many of the teenagers are also posting pictures posing with stolen bikes on social media as if these are trophies to behold with no fear of any repercussions from Police Scotland.

“One picture seen on social media with a youth on a stolen bike was even captioned ‘I’m Back #PoliceScotland’.

Lothian Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said he had been contacted by motorcycle owners angry at what they described as a crime wave of thefts of motorbikes in Edinburgh and across Lothian more widely.

“It appears a small group of offenders are behind these repeated thefts of bikes, some of whom are reoffending almost as soon as they are released after being charged with one theft.”

Chief Supt Macdonald promised social media pictures would be followed up.