BUS drivers are refusing to stop at Pennywell shopping centre after children as young as eight began ambushing their vehicles.
Pint-sized yobs have taken to killing the engine by yanking an external lever and stealing cash from the cab as the driver gets out to inspect the problem.
The ruse has meant several drivers now bypass the Muirhouse stop altogether and instead issue tannoy announcements that passengers will have to alight further down the road.
Residents claim the ploy is becoming increasingly prevalent and has stoked fears the bus service could be scrapped if the antisocial behaviour continues.
One regular passenger, who declined to be identified, told how the culprits were using distraction techniques to allow accomplices to steal cash from the cab.
“This happened to me on my way home and my husband the night before,” she said.
“The driver just shouted at the stop further up Pennywell Road ‘anyone wanting off at the shopping centre, I’m not stopping there because there’s youths up to mischief’.
“I respect and support the safety of the drivers and think I have a right to get home safely. I don’t want to have to get off and walk further because when I get back it’s dark.
“We’ve lived around here for a long time and I’ve never felt intimidated going home from work – but now I do.”
Passengers waiting at the bus stop have also been left stranded with no warnings given that drivers were avoiding the trouble hotspot.
Willie Black, secretary of West Pilton and West Granton Community Council, said he feared the youngsters targeting buses were risking their lives.
“It’s not teenagers but kids of eight, nine and ten,” he said. “I’ve observed them when I’ve been sitting on the bus and seen them run away. I’ve also seen them when I’ve been in my car. The driver was befuddled, I went to the door of the bus and said ‘they’ve switched you off’.
“It’s really annoying for the passengers but, more importantly, it’s a very serious safety matter. If anybody goes near a vehicle, especially a bus, they’re running the risk of doing themselves some harm.”
Police Scotland said it was beefing-up patrols and issued a warning to the troublemakers that their behaviour “will not be tolerated”.
Sergeant Stuart Mitchell said: “We’re aware young people have been causing disruption to local buses in Muirhouse and Pennywell. This is unacceptable and we are taking action by tasking a local officer from Drylaw Police Station to patrol the area at night.
“As well as causing disruption these activities could result in serious injuries to those taking part. We will not tolerate this type of antisocial behaviour continuing.”
A spokesman for Lothian Buses said they would continue work with police, adding: “We understand the police are looking into the issue and we are keeping in contact with them.”