METAL thieves have made off with benches worth £2000 from a Portobello park – in broad daylight.
Community councillors raised the alarm after four of the £500 benches were swiped from Abercorn Park.
A local resident witnessed the benches being loaded into a white van by the brazen thieves but failed to raise the alarm, believing them to be council workmen.
Portobello Community Council chair John Stewart said: “These benches were bolted to the Tarmac so these guys must be pretty daring to steal them.
“It only serves to highlight how these guys think – basically, if it’s metal then they’ll try and steal it. This park is well used by locals and now there is only one bench left.”
Portobello councillor Maureen Child said she was fearful that this latest incident could be the start of another spate of metal thefts across the city.
She said: “Metal prices continue to rise, and hopefully this isn’t the latest in a new round of thefts.
“These benches are expensive to replace, £500 apiece. Whether they were stolen to order or for scrap remains to be seen. These benches will now have to be replaced and that money could be better spent elsewhere.”
She also warned: “Benches are maintained in situ, so if they are being moved it is not legitimately, nor by any council staff, and the local police should be notified immediately if you see anyone taking a bench from anywhere.”
Councillor Cammy Day, community safety leader, said: “It’s despicable that thieves have struck at the heart of the local community by stealing these four benches.
“They were bolted to the ground so it would have taken a lot of effort for them to be stolen and we would urge anyone with any information about the theft to contact police immediately.”
In March, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced that the Scottish Governent were seeking to ban cash payments for scrap metal in an effort to crack down on metal thieves.
The growing problem of metal theft is estimated to cost the UK economy £770 million a year.
A rise in the value of scrap metal has led to an escalation of metal theft in recent years. The railways and utility firms are particular targets, but sculptures and memorials have also been stolen.
Metal a magnet for crooks
Last June, the Evening News reported how thousands of pounds worth of damage had been caused to buildings across Leith after a series of lead thefts. The Citadel Youth Centre, Leith Theatre, South Leith Parish Church and the old Bonnington Primary School were among those hit.
In October, thieves stole copper gas pipes from homes in the Capital, leaving dozens of families cut off.A couple of months earlier, the city council revealed repairs and maintenance in schools had been scaled back to “essential” health and safety work after it was forced to pay out more than £177,000 as a result of metal thefts.
Scrap thieves also caused £100,000 of damage before a new Asda store at Straiton opened in July 2011 after a raid on aluminium scaffolds.