A POLICE helicopter has been deployed to hunt down tear-aways who are stealing motorbikes and joyriding around city estates.
The helicopter has been sent through from its Strathclyde base to target the growing problem of illegal off-roading in north Edinburgh.
The airborne unit tracks down and monitors joyriders from the sky while directing officers on the ground to intercept them.
The crackdown has led to 20 arrests and 40 vehicles recovered since being launched at the beginning of August.
Police chiefs said that the “bird’s eye view” has allowed officers to quickly pinpoint the culprit’s location. The operation has centred on Muirhouse, Pilton and the waterfront area.
As well as an increase in foot patrols, officers have also been using hand-held cameras to identify offenders.
In August, the Evening News revealed that a gang of thieves was stealing high-powered motorbikes and posing for pictures on Facebook.
Inspector Mark Rennie, of Drylaw police station, said: “There has been a significant amount of concern in the local community over this problem and we’ve been working hard over the summer to ensure we can provide additional resources into the area to prevent it.
“Since the beginning of August, we have recovered 40 stolen vehicles and charged 20 youths with related offences, but our aim is to prevent this type of risk-taking behaviour over the longer term.
“As well as talking with young people at local schools about the risks, we will be speaking with local youth groups and agencies with a view to making every effort to divert those involved into positive activities in their community.”
Officers have also enlisted the council’s environmental wardens to check likely disposal sites for stolen bikes. Insp Rennie added: “I’d like to thank residents who have already called us with information, and would ask anyone to call us immediately if they see what they believe to be a stolen motorcycle being used or hidden by youths in the area.”
Last month, the helicopter was sent into action to locate motorcyclists spotted speeding and “driving aggressively” in Craigmillar. Four men were charged in connection with antisocial behaviour on common ground between Greendykes Road and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s community safety leader, said: “The theft of motorbikes and cars by young people has become a real problem in north Edinburgh, and one that I know is a matter of great concern to the local community. I am very glad to see additional police resources being used to tackle this extremely serious issue.”