Gary Cunningham: No hiding place for petty crooks who plague our city

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Police in Edinburgh have taken the unusual step of releasing CCTV pictures in the hunt for street robbers, Detective Chief Inspector Gary Cunningham explains why

Street robberies are an enduring priority for police in Edinburgh.

Muggings not only have a serious emotional and sometimes physical impact on the victim, but they also influence wider community perceptions of safety and security on the streets of our Capital.

Operation Arable was launched almost a month ago in order to bolster our already significant response to these crimes, with the intention of preventing them happening through a combination of targeted enforcement and education.

Lothian and Borders Police want to make clear to those involved in such crimes that there is no hiding place, and that we will pursue them with all of the resources at our disposal. This is no empty promise.

As part of Operation Arable we have arrested more than 20 suspected offenders, and a further 14 people have been reported to the procurator fiscal for a variety of offences.

Our enforcement activity encompasses targeted plain-clothes and uniformed patrols in those areas that are most attractive to potential muggers, as well as the use of officers on buses on routes used by criminals travelling within Edinburgh.

In addition, Operation Arable officers have visited close to 300 licensed premises and 200 businesses with the twin purpose of educating licensees and businesses about what they can do when they suspect that stolen goods are being sold on their premises, and to gather intelligence on those who may be involved in doing so.

Much of this activity has been carried out in partnership with our licensing colleagues at City of Edinburgh Council, and the council has given us further support through the use of mobile CCTV, which has been deployed in those city-centre areas known to be attractive to muggers.

CCTV has also formed a major part of our inquiries into historical crimes, and we have made a number of targeted public appeals for information through the release of images of those suspected of being responsible for robberies that have taken place in Edinburgh.

The public response to these appeals has been extremely encouraging, and demonstrates the strength of community spirit that exists here in the Capital – the hard-working and law-abiding people of this city will not tolerate the activities of criminals who seek to ply their cowardly trade on our streets.

Of course, there are measures that people can take to guard against falling victim to muggers, and you may have seen the leaflets and posters that our officers have been distributing across Edinburgh as part of Operation Arable, bearing the slogan “Pay Attention, Muggers Do”.

These leaflets contain advice and information on how people can protect themselves from becoming a victim of street robbery, and I would urge people who have not seen a leaflet to log on to the Lothian and Borders Police website, where you will find tips on how to protect yourself and your property.

While I would urge people to heed this advice, I would also like to reassure people that the chances of becoming a victim of street robbery in Edinburgh remain extremely low.

Of course, this is of little comfort to those who have suffered at the hands of the minority of criminals whose activities we are determined to stamp out, and Lothian and Borders Police will continue to treat street robbery as a priority, using a strategy of prevention and enforcement.

We invite people to help us protect our communities from muggers by supplying us with information on those who they think are responsible for such crimes. Rest assured that any information received will be acted on, and treated in the strictest confidence.

• Anyone with information should contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131 31 3131, or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111.

Safety first

• Stay alert and aware of your surroundings

• Be especially alert when using cash machines

• When possible, don’t walk home alone after a night out

• Walk with confidence, in well-used, well-lit areas

• Keep your keys, mobile, and purse/ wallet separately

• Use zipped, deep or tight pockets – don’t keep everything in your bag

• Don’t flash expensive phones or music players, even when asked the time

• Tell the police if you see anyone acting suspiciously

• If anyone does try to take your belongings, let go. Your safety is more important