POLICE insist they are pulling out all the stops to tackle youth disorder in Pilton – as they were warned fed-up neighbours could take matters into their own hands.
Community leaders said “desperate” residents were running out of patience waiting for a tougher police response and were on the verge of forming a vigilante group.
The warning comes as it emerged today that children as young as 12 have been charged over a crime spree sweeping Pilton.
Since July, 55 stolen motorbikes – which residents claim have been driven recklessly around the community, “terrorising” locals – have been seized by police.
In that three-month period, an out-of-control, two dozen-strong group of 12 to 22-year-olds have been charged with more than 140 offences between them.
The latest statistics, released to the Evening News in the wake of a heated community meeting about crime earlier this week, were branded “frightening” by residents.
Concerns have reached fever pitch after Chinese takeaway owner Jie Yu, 37, was stabbed in West Pilton Park last week.
Mr Yu, whose car was allegedly stolen shortly before the attack, remains in hospital and three men have been charged with attempted murder.
Police have pledged to crack down on antisocial behaviour and 15 officers from the city centre have been re-deployed to the area for the next three weeks.
But residents believe not enough is being done to combat the young thugs who churn up West Pilton Park with stolen motorbikes and cars, veer on to the pavements and set fire to the vehicles.
Officers admit they cannot pursue stolen bikes amid concerns inexperienced riders could be seriously injured or killed trying to escape.
Frances Durie, chairwoman of West Pilton and West Granton Community Council, said: “These figures are frightening. The residents are all at the end of their tether. They will end up with a vigilante group. It’s getting to that stage now, it’s getting desperate.”
Community campaigner Betty McVay said: “I’m under no illusion and I’m not holding out much hope that there will be massive changes.
“We have watched that field getting churned up and watched the astroturf wall getting torn down. That was built by the community to build bridges after the sell-off of the council houses.
“The wall is destroyed and the council just say ‘we have not got money to help you with the repairs’. They don’t make it any better. I am 81 and I hear and see what’s going on under my window – I know what I’m hearing when a motorbike is going past. Hopefully we can get out of this mess.”
The repeat offenders are often reported to the Children’s Panel, but the justice system has been slammed as “soft touch”.
At Tuesday’s meeting, which saw the community council abandon its agenda to allow locals to have their say on crime, Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm said the Children’s Panel scheme was “not effective”.
Calls were also made for parents to be slapped with warnings that they will face criminal proceedings if they don’t keep their children under control.
Police Scotland Inspector David Happs said: “In the past three months alone, 24 people between the ages of 12 and 22 have been charged with over 140 crimes of theft, damage, antisocial behaviour and road traffic offences in relation to motorbike crime and 55 motorcycles have been seized by police and returned to their rightful owners.
“Understandably, residents feel strongly about this and I want to reassure them that we will relentlessly pursue these criminals and bring them to justice.
“Police in Edinburgh are using resources from road policing, the dog section and air support, as well as working with the city council.
“I am grateful to those who have come forward with information on stolen motorcycles and would urge people to continue to let us know of any criminal activity.”
Community safety leader Cammy Day, councillor for Forth ward, pledged to push for more action.
He said: “It is clear that the community are rightly frustrated and angry at the actions of a few offenders.
“I plan to make sure that local people are involved more closely. We need an ongoing commitment to more focused resources to target problems quickly.”