POLICE today warned that people texting in the street and listening to music on headphones are making themselves easy prey for muggers as robberies soar in the Capital.
The popularity of smartphones, iPods and tablet computers is being blamed for the 16 per cent increase in robberies this year.
Thieves are taking advantage of users being distracted as they text and check social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter while on the move to steal their high-value, portable devices.
Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, Edinburgh’s divisional commander, said: “As well as carrying valuable items, people are also texting on their phones, or looking at websites [and] they may wear headphones. That makes them less aware of their surroundings and more vulnerable to being robbed. We are trying to make people more aware of that.”
She urged the public to be vigilant to potential threats when using phones and other electronic devices in public.
New figures showed that 461 robberies were committed in the city between last April and March, compared with 399 the previous year.
After becoming concerned by the trend, police launched Operation Arable in February in a bid to crack down on muggers and highlight the problem.
Chief Supt Imery said: “The rise in street robberies was something we identified during the year. Sixteen per cent is a significant increase and it’s an issue of concern in different parts of the city.
“We’re trying to identify trends and one factor does seem to be the high value of fairly small items which people carry nowadays.
“People are carrying mobile phones, iPods and iPads, and these have been the products we have seen targeted.”
Officers have distributed leaflets to schools, colleges and universities in a bid to raise security amongst potential victims, with younger people more likely to be hit.
Police have identified the hours between midnight and 4am as the worst time for muggings, with the culprits often trying to take advantage of revellers on nights out, particularly on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Chief Supt Imery added: “Operation Arable has focused on areas identified as concerning for street crimes, such as the city centre, Sighthill underpasses, the top of Leith Walk, and the Nicolson Street corridor. Many times that is young people coming home from a night out.
“Arable is an ongoing operation, which was only launched in February, so it’s a bit early to see the fruits of that. It’s not had the opportunity to affect this year’s figures, but we hope to see an impact on next year’s.”