Police say eastern Europeans behind burglaries

The spike in Edinburgh housebreaking is being blamed on youngsters and Eastern European groups by Sir Stephen House. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The spike in Edinburgh housebreaking is being blamed on youngsters and Eastern European groups by Sir Stephen House. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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SCOTLAND’S chief constable has claimed criminals from eastern Europe are among those behind the recent spate of housebreakings across the Capital.

Sir Stephen House said they were difficult to catch because they disappeared abroad when things got hot and returned later.

And he warned young criminals were going on “fill your boots” crime sprees as there was “no deterrent” when they were already facing a court appearance.

He made the comments as he was quizzed over the high rate of housebreakings in Edinburgh at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority.

He said there was a noticeable “spike” of such crimes in the city. “It is partly a youngsters thing, but there are a variety of different methods and profiles,” he said. “There is also no doubt that there have been eastern European groupings involved in a number of the crimes, and that adds complications.

“Identities are not always certain, and they can go back and forwards out of the country.”

Sir Stephen said there had been 161 arrests for housebreaking, but that youths awaiting punishment were often carrying out final “fill your boots” crime sprees before they are locked up due to a lack of detention facilities for young offenders.

“It’s not that we are not making the arrests,” he said. “Often we know who is doing it, and they will continue to do it if they are still out on the streets.

“Many of the offenders, particularly in Edinburgh, are youngsters and that puts pressure on the whole system.

“We need to have enough places to deal effectively and appropriately with young offenders for housebreaking, because the prejudice is if they are caught and taken into custody that they are released.

“Unfortunately, what you get is spree offences where they know that day of reckoning is coming, they know they’re going to get some sort of custodial sentence, and therefore the phrase ‘fill your boots’ comes to mind.

“There’s nothing deterring them from committing more and more offences until they go to court.”

He also pointed to problems for police in tackling criminals on motorbikes, who might be inexperienced and reckless, saying: “Frankly, a police pursuit in those circumstances is going to lead to injury.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com