A GANG of muggers targeted foreign students in separate daylight attacks in the space of just 20 minutes, prompting a security warning as Freshers’ Week got under way.
Two women assaulted a 25-year-old student from the Philippines in Blair Street and tried to steal his bag before making off empty-handed onto South Bridge.
Minutes later, a 22-year-old Chinese woman, also studying in the Capital, was repeatedly punched in the face in Drummond Street before having her phone stolen by a man and two women.
Although both students sustained only minor injuries, detectives said they had been left shocked by their ordeals.
Officers are linking the two robberies and believe the muggers may have deliberately targeted young people from abroad.
Student leaders insisted that Edinburgh is “typically a very safe place”, but said those studying here should “exercise caution” when out in the city.
A university policing team, based at the St Leonard’s station and covering Edinburgh University’s main campus and student residences, was recently set up and its officers are offering advice to new students during Freshers’ Week, which started on Saturday.
Detective Constable Steve Livingstone, who is leading the inquiry, said: “We’re linking these incidents because of the similarities in the descriptions, the short time between them, and the geographical area involved. We also believe the suspects may have been part of a larger group who were in the area.
“The first victim was approached from behind by two women who jumped on him and attempted to remove his bag.
“It was only 20 minutes later when the second victim was attacked. She was punched in the face and had her phone stolen. In both cases, the victims were left understandably shaken.”
DC Livingstone said that the muggers may have deliberately picked out foreign students as targets. He said: “Although we cannot say for certain, it’s entirely possible from the set of circumstances that this is what happened.”
He added that the area was probably busy at 4.35pm on Friday when the first of the attacks took place, and appealed for any witnesses to come forward.
The female suspects were described as being in their late teens to early 20s, and wearing a pink hooded top and a blue top respectively. One had blonde hair, with the other having red hair that was possibly dyed.
The male suspect was described as late teens to early 20s, slight build and wearing a brown leather jacket.
A spokeswoman for The Advice Place, the advice service run by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (Eusa), said: “We have recently started work with a new university policing team to encourage students to report crimes.
“We would always advise students that Edinburgh is typically a very safe place but that they need to exercise the same amount of caution they would use in any medium-sized city.”
A university spokeswoman said: “The university’s security personnel, in conjunction with Edinburgh University Student’s Association, is delivering crime prevention and safety presentations during Freshers’ Week for students who may be newly arrived and unfamiliar with their surroundings.”
Meanwhile, a man and woman tried to rob a 30-year-old woman of her handbag as she spoke on her mobile phone on Duncan Street, Newington, at around 5.35pm on Friday.
The suspects were also in their late teen to early 20s but police are not linking the robbery to the previous incidents.
A police spokesman said tracking software was a good idea to help with the tracing of mobile phones.