A SMASH and grab gang is thought to be targeting Edinburgh garages, stealing tens of thousands of pounds worth of equipment.
Police are investigating at least four break-ins where the thieves escaped with diagnostic devices while leaving other valuable items behind.
Garage owners believe the thieves are specifically seeking out the sophisticated equipment during quick raids to sell them on outside Edinburgh.
Police today said they had not established if the same individuals were responsible for the break-ins in Leith, Craigmillar and Joppa, but were “keeping an open mind” over whether they were linked.
Annandale Coachworks and MOT Testing Centre in Leith was hit twice, with thieves stealing £6000 worth of equipment, and returning a month later to steal their replacements worth £5400.
A garage in the Craigmillar area was also broken into last week and diagnostics taken.
Scott Vehicle Services was the latest garage to be raided, in the early hours of Thursday morning, with £6000 of diagnostic testers stolen along with two motorbikes valued at £5000.
Owner Brian Scott said: “We have a steel door at the back which is the emergency exit. It looks like they may have used a van, tied it to the door, and driven forward to pull it open enough to get inside.
“There must have been more than one of them involved. Some of our neighbours heard an engine revving at about 4am so that must have been them.
“We’ve heard there’s been other break-ins to garages with the same kind of equipment stolen. It must be the same people involved who are selling it on.
“I’ve bought a safe now to store our equipment in case they try to come back again.”
Alan Ranaldi, who has run Annandale Coachworks in Carron Place with his brother for 20 years, said: “They broke through our back window and a door to get into the office and stole £6000 in diagnostic equipment.
“We had the equipment replaced and a month later they broke in the exact same way and stole the replacements.
“They knew when they broke down the door that it was alarmed. But they obviously knew what they were coming for so they could get in and out quickly.
“There was other valuable stuff lying about but they ignored it.
“This equipment was obviously stolen to order. You couldn’t sell it in Edinburgh. Any garage owner would know they were red hot because they’re specialist items you buy straight from a supplier.
“There’s rumours going around that a gang are behind it and the equipment is being taken abroad.
“We’re insured but we lost business on the downtime waiting for the equipment to be replaced. With modern cars, it’s impossible to do anything without the diagnostics.”
A police spokesman said the first break-in at the Carron Place garage took place between 2am and 5.30am on October 7 while the second happened between 3am and 5.30am on November 3.
The spokesman added: “Lothian and Borders Police are investigating following a break-in and theft from a business premises in Milton Road East.
“Vehicle diagnostic equipment and two motorcycles were stolen during the incident, which happened sometime between 6.45pm on Wednesday and 7.45am on Thursday.
“Anyone who was in the area and saw anything suspicious is asked to contact police immediately.”