Edinburgh crime: Balaclava gangs remain at large despite police ending operation to tackle motorbike crime

This year has seen a spate of crime from youths in balaclavas across the city from theft to attempted murder

Balaclava-clad gangs remain at large in Edinburgh despite police in the city ending their operation targeting the reckless use of motorbikes.

Operation Soteria was a city wide initiative to tackle the spate of crime committed by gangs on off road bikes and resulted in 36 arrests, 185 charges for a variety of offences, and the recovery of 131 motorcycles, with a total value of more than £600,000. The police have confirmed that the operation has now concluded.

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But despite this, on Tuesday detectives launched an investigation after a motorcyclist was pushed onto the road near The Mound by a man wearing a balaclava who was trying to steal his bike. The suspect then made off with a larger balaclava-clad group, one of whom is believed to have been just 10 years old.

Balaclava-wearing youths on motorbikes were involved in incidents of assault, harassment and intimidation over the summer.

Since May, the Evening News has reported on at least 10 incidents involving a balaclava gang. In October, officers launched an investigation after a teenager was stabbed by a gang member on Leith Walk in an unprovoked attack. Other reported incidents have included a man having been hit on the back of the head outside a shop in Roseburn, people at the Meadows having ketchup thrown over them, and a motorcycle instructor accosted by male youths on electric bikes who attempted to kick him off his vehicle. All of these allegedly were committed by gangs of youths, wearing balaclavas and riding motorbikes.

Superintendent Sam Ainslie commented: “We are aware of the negative impact and understandable community concerns resulting from the anti-social and reckless use of motorcycles across the city. This behaviour will not be tolerated, and we have and will continue to work with colleagues, including Road Policing, to proactively prevent and address these concerns.

“Road safety remains a priority for Edinburgh Division, and notwithstanding the risk these reckless individuals pose to their own safety, their behaviours also cause significant risk to pedestrians and other road users. While Operation Soteria has now concluded for this year, officers across Edinburgh remain committed to tackling and reducing motorcycle related crime, including anti-social and reckless behaviour, and we will continue to work to ensure offenders are dealt with robustly.

“To allow us to target our activities, I would encourage communities to report incidents via 101, and should anyone have information as to the identity of those placing communities at risk, this can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Edinburgh crime news: Police operation tackling motorbike gang crime comes to an end

At the end of November, a round-table summit was held at the Scottish Parliament by Edinburgh Labour MSP Daniel Johnson to discuss balaclava-clad motorbike gangs in the Capital.

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Mr Johnson said: “We can’t have people riding unregistered vehicles, whether they own them or they’ve been stolen, on our streets. The police need appropriate levels of resourcing so they can have officers who are trained and equipped to apprehend these people. They are absolutely right to only want to do that when it’s safe but at the same time they need both the people and the appropriate training and equipment in order to tackle that.”