A GANG of teenage housebreakers are behind a crime wave which has left police “powerless” to keep them off the streets.
The juvenile criminals – some as young as 14 – are suspected of being behind dozens of breaks-ins and attempted raids in Newington, Morningside and nearby areas recently.
Despite being identified and arrested by officers, some of the gang have been freed to strike again as they are under 16 and few places are available in detention centres.
In the most recent incidents, a mother was left terrified as gang members tried to force open the window of a bedroom where her 11-month-old daughter was sleeping.
Police raced to Glenorchy Terrace, Newington, shortly after midnight on Saturday and found two youths climbing through back gardens. A 15-year-old was arrested after being caught in a tree, while a second suspect fled.
Officers have been left frustrated by their inability to prevent the repeat offenders from carrying out further offences.
The Glenorchy Terrace mum of the 11-month-old tot described hearing the youths scampering around outside, trying windows and doors as terrifying.
After going to bed at 11pm, she heard “thumping on our bedroom window like someone was trying to get in”.
She said: “Our windows were locked and we could hear them go to the next window and thump that. That’s where our 11-month-old daughter was sleeping. It was terrifying.
“Two of the youths were in the back gardens of our street. One of them was up a tree climbing into another garden. The police were there in minutes and caught one, but the other ran away.
“It turned out the teenager they caught had been arrested on Friday for housebreaking, taken to a station, released, and let back out to do more break-ins. It’s shocking that the police are left powerless to stop them. There’s no real consequences for under-16s and they obviously know that.”
The Evening News understands there was an early attempted housebreaking in the same street at 5pm on Saturday.
One resident, who did not wish to be named, added: “When the police came to ask if we had seen anything, the officers said a gang of 14-year-olds were behind most of the break-ins and said they were really frustrated because they arrested these kids then they were straight back out again.”
Councillor Ian Perry, who represents the Newington and Southside area, was dismayed at the mayhem.
He said: “I can understand the police’s frustration. Clearly it is an unusual situation when you have a gang of teenagers targeting the area and we need to look at what we can do to stop it. I’ll be speaking to the police to find out if there is any work to be done with these youths to change their behaviour. Arrest is not the solution when they are so young.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said they are aware of “a number of youths . . . involved in housebreakings in the Newington area”.
She added: “A 15-year-old male has been charged with a number of housebreakings over the weekend in Glenorchy Terrace and Simon Square. He has been reported to the Children’s Reporter.”
OPERATION RAC was launched following a dramatic drop in solved break-ins in Edinburgh.
The 50-strong squad have recorded a number of successes since its formation in December.
The city team snared 44 robbers in just ten days with those arrested reported for more than 120 crimes.
Operation RAC officers in Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian have also made a string of arrests as they pursue housebreakers.