Gang wreaks havoc on Edinburgh estate

A dirty and litter-strewn stairwell in Northfield. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A dirty and litter-strewn stairwell in Northfield. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A GANG of teen tearaways branded a “pack of wolves” are running amok on a city estate, blighting the area with racism, vandalism and antisocial behaviour.

Police chiefs have stepped up foot patrols in the beleaguered streets of Northfield Grove and Northfield Drive in a bid to stem the trouble.

Residents have reported “scores” of antisocial behaviour incidents to their local councillor as they call for the families of the worst offenders to be evicted.

One local family was branded an “18-rated version of The Waltons”, with some of several youngsters staying at the address accused of a catalogue of offences.

As well as boys aged 14 and 15 causing disorder, groups of younger girls have been using common stairs as dens to smoke cannabis.

Residents claim that Polish, Nigerian and Egyptian families have been victims of racist abuse from young thugs. In one sickening episode, dog excrement was put through the letterbox of one of their homes.

Council chiefs said they are treating the problems “extremely seriously” and are meeting regularly with a new neighbourhood association formed by the community to fight back.

A group of residents, who asked for their names to be withheld out of fear of retaliation, said the community was being terrorised by troublemakers.

One resident said: “I’ve lived here for many years and the problems are getting progressively worse. It went from mostly happening during holidays and weekends to almost any night.

“It got so bad, the Northfield Drive and Grove Neighbourhood Association was formed to tackle antisocial behaviour. The group gives residents somewhere to report these issues and try and find a solution.

“There’s racist abuse shouted in the street, stolen motorbikes being ridden around. Cars have been vandalised, either being scratched or having kids running over the top of them.

“There’s a lack of parental control. They are allowed to run wild and they know the police can’t touch them until they’re 16.

“One family is like an 18-rated version of The Waltons. Lots of kids in the house and the older ones are running wild. Even the youngest ones swear at you in the street.”

Common stairs in the blocks have been repeatedly targeted by vandal attacks, with graffiti scrawled on walls, door windows smashed, and stairwells used as toilets. In several vile incidents, excrement was smeared on walls and windows.

Two tearaways were accused of stealing a golf cart from Craigentinny Golf Course and joyriding it around the estate, while several vehicles have been broken into.

In another recent incident, an elderly man returning home from a shopping trip left his car keys in the ignition for a few minutes while he took bags inside. He returned to find the car was gone and later discovered three teenagers were involved in the theft.

A resident said: “They are like a pack of wolves. I won’t walk past their houses because I’m worried about what will happen. You might get a gang of only four or five of them, but other times it can be eight, nine or ten. The racist abuse has been particularly bad, with people who come from outside Scotland getting shouted at as they walk by. There are half a dozen families being affected by repeat racism.”

One victim, in his 70s, was assaulted by a group of youngsters. He said: “They were swearing at my wife and she came in crying. I went out to speak to them and I was surrounded by about a dozen of them and attacked. They are making people’s lives a misery. People are afraid to walk down the street.”

A resident added: “The area used to be so quiet and Northfield was an aspirational place to live. Now a lot of owner-occupiers don’t want to live here anymore. They’re moving out and the homes are going to private landlords and the council who will put anyone here.”

Neighbours said some of the young offenders were not from Northfield but came into the area from as far afield as Loanhead, Midlothian, to cause trouble. A number of those involved in the disorder were also linked to antisocial behaviour in nearby Piershill, which made headlines in 2012 when a 12-year-old girl fell victim to a racist gang attack.

Local councillor Alex Lunn said he had received “scores” of complaints about antisocial behaviour in the two streets, while ethnic minority families had complained of racism.

He said: “Antisocial behaviour and racism are constant issues in Northfield Drive and Northfield Grove. These issues must be taken seriously by the council’s community safety team.

“A second issue is owner-occupiers leaving because they don’t feel they can live here any more. We need to see more owner-occupiers in the Drive and Grove.”

But a member of one local family, whose teenagers have been accused of involvement in antisocial behaviour, said the complaints were “overblown”.

He said: “They’re not angels, but I tell them to behave when they go out. We can’t watch them all the time.

“There’s no antisocial behaviour round here. It’s a lot of old people complaining because they want the area to be like it was years ago, but that’s not going to happen.”

One of the teenage ringleaders, aged around 16, was recently evicted from Northfield along with his mother after being blamed for a crime spree, which included breaking into several cars and taxis.

Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s community safety leader, said: “We are aware of the issue, which we are taking extremely seriously, and actively working with police and other partners in the area to deal with. We recently attended a meeting with politicians at all levels and the Northfield Residents’ Association to identify further actions. Meetings with local residents are ongoing to deal with individual and community concerns.”

Dedicated foot patrols by uniformed officers are set to be carried out in the streets over the next two weeks.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland is aware of concerns in the Northfield area of Edinburgh. We’ve been working in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council for a number of months and we are in an advanced stage of dealing against specific problem tenants.

“We have also planned an enhanced police presence in the area over the coming weeks in order to prevent antisocial behaviour and will be updating residents with the work we are undertaking.”