Police ‘too busy’ to help woman chase thief

Susan Young, left, and Carol Begbie examine the damage to the car. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Susan Young, left, and Carol Begbie examine the damage to the car. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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When businesswoman Susan Young spotted a thief had smashed into the boot of her car and was making off with her Christmas shopping from the boot, she sprang into action.

Without a thought for her own safety, the 54-year-old mortgage advisor leapt from her office to chase the thief down the street, while her businsess partner Carol Begbie called the police.

But Mrs Begbie, 52, was left stunned when the 999 operator told her that the police were too busy to attend the incident in Piersfield Terrace, Piershill, and offered to call them back later.

A day later, there was still no sign of the police, despite the exasperated pair making three further calls to the non-emergency 101 number, and the greedy thief was back in Piersfield Terrace.

The women alerted police that the crook – instantly recognisable in the same duffel coat he had been wearing when he broke into Mrs Young’s company car on Monday – was targeting other vehicles and officers arrived a short time later to detain him.

Mrs Young and Mrs Begbie, who run the Female Independent mortgage advice shop, said they were angered by such a slow response, particularly as they had caught the criminal red-handed.

Police said that local officers were dealing with a life-threatening incident on Arthur’s Seat at the time.

Mrs Young, 54, who had been buying Christmas food and presents just before the thief struck, said: “I only put the stuff in the car about 20 minutes before. What makes us angry is that we had both our windows put in this time last year with an airgun. Nothing was done about that either.

“We just feel that we have been let down. There was a crime being committed on the doorstep of our property – surely we have a right to have a response to that. We phoned 999 because the crime was being committed at that very minute.”

She said the lack of police action made her feel “unsafe in her place of business” and worried about the elderly residents who live nearby.

“In total, we phoned four times. The call centre was quite rude to me on the phone and said they couldn’t come to me,” she added.

Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart, a former police officer, said he “could not understand” why no officers were available.

The Liberal Democrat said: “It’s staggering that a national force should claim to be too busy to find an officer to deal with an ongoing crime, 
especially one where the engaged member of the public could be putting themselves in harm’s way, should they manage to catch the criminal.

“Thankfully it was a good result in this case but it doesn’t bear thinking about had she caught the criminal and he reacted badly.”

Mrs Begbie, 52, said the phone call she received from police yesterday to tell her the man had been detained only added insult to injury.

“I told them, ‘I know because it was us who caught him’,” she said. “We don’t blame the police, we blame the government for cutbacks.”

Vehicle crime is on the rise in the Capital, with 288 more offences in April-September compared to the same period last year, and the latest Police Scotland statistics show that the force solved just under ten per cent of all 2197 cases since April this year.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, officers were unable to attend immediately to speak with the informant as they were involved in an incident which required an urgent police response due to a potential risk to life.”