Police post pictures online to catch car criminals

Police post on Twitter in a bid to trace a stolen Jaguar XF
Police post on Twitter in a bid to trace a stolen Jaguar XF
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pictures of flash cars which have been stolen from homes in the Capital are being posted on social media in a bid to return them to their owners.

The public are being urged to be on the look-out for the vehicles, many of which have been taken after the keys were snatched during break-ins.

Officers issued the first appeal photograph of a stolen car earlier this week – a black Jaguar XF taken from a city home earlier this month.

The online drive was launched as police chiefs revealed to the Evening News that one in six housebreakings result in a car being stolen.

This follows a recent spike in such incidents – which often see the vehicles used for subsequent crimes – prompting the launch of Operation RAC.

The figures were published just hours after a crackdown snared a number of criminals in connection with domestic break-ins or car crime.

Fresh statistics for the second year of Police Scotland also show an 11 per cent rise in housebreakings – with around a third of cases being solved by detectives.

City police chief Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, pictured below, acknowledged that it had been a “challenging” year for housebreakings and high-profile robberies.

But he said he was confident that a range of “creative” police tactics – including the stolen vehicle appeals on social media – would help combat prolific criminals, some of whom are young teenagers.

Ch Supt Williams said: “For vehicles that have been stolen, particularly those which are high-value or distinctive, we are using social media to appeal and highlight that they are missing and to ask for the support of the public should they see them anywhere in the city.”

He urged people not to approach the vehicles or take the law into their own hands, and instead said they should call 101.

Officers hope that regular road users – including bin men and women, bus and taxi drivers – will keep a watchful eye out for the suspicious vehicles.

The core group of around 30 men and boys responsible for a wave of break-ins in north and west Edinburgh are believed to carry out the raids “for fun”.

They are suspected of staking out vacant properties with desirable cars in the driveways before breaking in and grabbing the car keys.

Extensive resources have been put into Operation RAC to try to root out the suspects – while wider issues of inequality, poverty and generational problems are also at play.

Ch Supt Williams said: “We are trying everything possible, and trying to get as creative as we can. We need to focus resources on some of these areas.”

City officers have been holding close discussions with other agencies including the social work and education departments, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal and Children’s Reporter, to discuss ways of “improving life chances” and fast-tracking court disposals.

Housebreaking offences are now being dealt with by indictment, to ensure thieves are removed from communities and locked up. Twelve police officers are also working across city schools to support those who may be susceptible to going down the wrong path.

And an experienced housebreaking police officer has been deployed to the forensic laboratory to ensure evidence such as fingerprints and blood spots left at the scene are processed quickly to bring offenders to justice.

Ch Supt Williams said: “We’ve got to be honest with ourselves about some of the problems we face – generational issues we have in some pockets of the city, drive a lot of this crime and we can’t ignore that.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com