Gun crime fears: Three attacks in 24 hours

Zafar Iqbal's Niddre Licensed Grocers was help up in December. Picture: Neil Hanna
Zafar Iqbal's Niddre Licensed Grocers was help up in December. Picture: Neil Hanna
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It is more dangerous to work in a shop than as a police officer, a retail expert has claimed, after a spate of city robberies involving guns.

Concerns about gun crime in the Capital have been fuelled by three firearms incidents in less than 24 hours this week, bringing the tally of gun-related incidents since September into double figures.

It appears that it is more dangerous to work in a shop today than it is to be working for the police.”

Paul Baxter

On Monday, a gunman stole more than £100,000 of watches from Laing the Jeweller in the city centre, before three men – including one armed with a gun – robbed cash from Ladbrokes bookmakers in Portobello that evening. In the early hours of Tuesday, shots were fired at a home in West Pilton March. Police said none of the incidents are linked.

The incidents, which included a lunchtime hold-up at Niddrie Licensed Grocers in December, prompted retail expert Paul Baxter to call for tougher penalties.

Mr Baxter, chief executive of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, said: “It is wrong that independent retailers are finding themselves vulnerable to such frightening crimes. It appears that it is more dangerous to work in a shop today than it is to be working for the police. It’s time the government and police take the matter of gun crime against retailers seriously.”

Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, the city’s divisional commander, admitted it had been a “challenging” start to the week but insisted gun crime remained rare. “We recognise that criminals will access weapons. We will act on any intelligence to remove guns from criminals,” he said. “The truth is Edinburgh is a safe city and violent crime is falling and continues to fall.”

Ch Supt Williams said his officers were following positive lines of inquiry for “each and every incident”, adding: “We will relentlessly pursue them with support from national assets.”

He added it was important to stress that shootings at residential properties were of a different nature to armed robberies at retailers. Tackling serious and organised crime is a key priority for us in Edinburgh and many of the crimes we are taking about have an organised criminality,” he said.

Sources said criminals obtained illegal firearms from the dark web – the hidden internet that is not indexed by standard search engines – organised crime circles and foreign imports.

A former senior police officer, who asked not to be named, said gun crime was a complex issue. He said: “You have got to differentiate between the shootings, which obviously involve real guns, and the hold-ups, which could well be replicas or air weapons. Police treat all armed crimes as an absolute priority.”

Firearms alerts in last six months

September 9: Shots fired at house on Fernieside Avenue, Moredun. Nine men have since been arrested

September 20: Shootings at properties in The Murrays and Gilmerton Dykes Drive

October 10: Shots fired at property in Drumbrae Terrace; police claim innocent family mistakenly targeted

October 13: Lone gunman robs RBS bank in Craigentinny; later arrested and charged

December 18: Female shop worker threatened by robber with a handgun who steals £1,000 from Niddrie Licenced Grocers.

January 20: Gunman with “blue gun” holds up BP Garage on Ferry Road, steals three-figure sum.

January 29: “Blue gun” robber strikes again in attempted armed robbery at Scotbet on Ferry Road. 39-year-old man later arrested and charged in connection with the two incidents

March 2: Laing the Jeweller on Frederick Street hit by lone robber with a gun

March 2: Ladbrokes on Portobello High Street raided by a gang of three armed robbers, one of whom had a gun

March 3: Shots fired at a home on West Pilton March