Police have vowed to put extra resources on the street to help a north Edinburgh community fight back against young criminals “running amok” on the streets.
Pilton residents presented a united front last night as they strengthened their resolve against youth crime and said they had “lost confidence” in the police.
At a heated meeting at the West Pilton Neighbourhood Centre, officers faced tough questions from frustrated locals.
Fears have been growing in the area due to a raft of incidents involving underage groups stealing vehicles and vandalising property.
Concerns about crime in Pilton have intensified after Chinese takeaway owner Jie Yu, 37, was stabbed on West Pilton Park last week.
Around 60 people turned out to have their say on the issue, with many residents condemning the justice system as having a “soft touch”.
Chief Inspector Bob Paris, local area commander for central Edinburgh, joined Sergeant Stuart Mitchell to answer questions from a passionate crowd.
Chf Insp Paris, who was filling in for the north area commander Chief Inspector Sara Buchanan, said patrols had been stepped up after Wednesday night’s incident, with 15 officers from central Edinburgh re-deployed to the area for the next three weeks.
Mr Yu, whose car was stolen shortly before he was attacked, is recovering in hospital.
Three men have been charged with attempted murder.
Chf Insp Paris said: “Since then we have managed to secure extra resources for the next three weeks. At the moment it is classed as a critical incident in the community, a priority for Police Scotland.”
The main issue raised by residents were long-running concerns about young people stealing motorbikes and joyriding them around the streets.
One woman said: “They are there all night, during the night, I take sleeping tablets and I’m woken in the night. I phone the police every week.”
Community councillor Betty McVay said the police had ignored the concerns of the local community for far too long.
“This meeting would never have had to happen if this community had been listened to ten to 15 years ago,” she said.
“You have got to listen to what’s going on here. It’s little wonder that we are now waiting on hand outs, for you to say we’ll get three weeks of resources. I have seen the good times, but now we are worse than we were in 1981. These people are fed up – they are not just here to complain.”
And to applause from the meeting she added: “This wouldn’t be happening in Morningside I can assure you.”
Another resident raised fears that there was not enough CCTV, while a young mother said she did not feel comfortable letting her children walk home from school through the park alone.
She said: “They are running amok on our streets. Our kids are terrorised. I don’t pay rent for my kids to be in prison in their own homes.”
In an impassioned speech, West Pilton and West Granton community council secretary Willie Black said the local area needed to be galvanised into action.
He said his own car had been broken into six times, while his neighbour had his house broken into recently.
Mr Black said: “The cops can’t deal with this alone but what we want to know is how many people who have committed crimes are now inside?
“The newspaper is full of Pilton. Many of us have been 60 years building up this community. What we want is good stories – we don’t want people trying to get out of the area.”
He said a message needed to be sent to the young criminals that the community would not allow them to “ruin” the area.
“Let’s get off our knees and start fighting back,” he said.
Chf Insp Paris and Sgt Mitchell said an operation specially set up to combat the motorcycle thefts and joyriding continued to be proactive in the area. However, police risk assessments have prevented officers from chasing youngsters on the motorbikes, and policy restricts the courts from giving “asbos” to under-18s.
But one woman said the local community had “lost confidence” in the police, with several sceptical that their complaints were not followed up.
Chf Insp Paris said: “My advice is to keep phoning. We are all part of this community – the people that live here, the people that work here, the businesses, the police – and not one of us can do this alone.”
It was agreed that senior members of the Forth Taskforce – set up to tackle issues in the north of Edinburgh – would be invited to a special public meeting.
Council chief executive Sue Bruce and Edinburgh divisional police commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams will also be invited to the meeting, which will aim to encourage a “ground-up” approach with as much community input as possible. Mr Black said the taskforce needed to give young people “some hope and vision”.
Chf Insp Paris said he wanted to reassure the public that officers were at Drylaw police station 24 hours a day.
He said: “We have got more community officers than when we were with Lothian and Borders. Fifteen officers from central Edinburgh have been deployed to the north Edinburgh area for the next three weeks, this will be reviewed after this. We have also created a flexible unit, which was working in central Edinburgh during the Festival, but since then they have been working here.”
He said police were working closely with the council’s children and families and housing teams, and the Children’s Reporter, on issues of youth crime.
Local councillor Cammy Day, the city council’s community safety leader, said the “slap on the wrist” often handed out to young criminals was “frustrating” for both the council and the police, and was doing nothing to change the behaviour of the “small group of people” who were involved in crimes in the area.
And local MSP Malcolm Chisholm vowed to bring up the issue with Chief Superintendent Mark Williams.
Mr Chisholm said: “This was a very important meeting. There is no simple solution, we have got to work with the area on a big range of points. We are not going to get somewhere by just letting people off. The children’s hearing system is not working effectively. People have got to listen to the community.”
Councillor Vicki Redpath said she found it “very heartening” that so many people attended the meeting.