Police target thieves after garage and shed raids

Figures show solvency rates for house thefts at 37.5 per cent. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Figures show solvency rates for house thefts at 37.5 per cent. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A SPATE of thefts from garages and sheds has sparked the launch of a “swift” police operation to root out the culprits.

Outbuildings in the grounds of around nine properties in the Grange area were broken into over two days last week.

The burglars made off with expensive items with a “significant combined value”, including mountain bikes and power tools.

The thefts – which took place on Wednesday and Thursday – prompted the launch of Operation Comatus.

Chief Inspector Chris Scobie, the new local area commander for Edinburgh South, said four suspects had been identified.

Uniformed and plain-clothed police have stepped up patrols, while community officers have been carrying out door-to-door visits to offer advice on securing sheds and garages.

Stolen property – including several mountain bikes each worth more than £1000 – has been recovered.

Ch Insp Scobie said: “This is a clear example of very successful action. It was a mix of traditional policing with innovative crime fighting, using technology to our advantage. Hopefully that drives down the fear of crime.”

The targeted break-ins to outbuildings in the Grange come a month after police statistics revealed a 48.2 per cent spike in thefts or attempted thefts from “non-domestic dwellings” across the Capital.

While there were 546 reported cases in the second quarter of 2013-14, there were a total of 809 in the same period of 2014-15.

Figures also revealed that police cracked just one in 20 break-ins to sheds and garages – while solvency rates for house thefts were seven times higher, at 37.5 per cent.

The boost in home break-in detections comes after the national police force reintroduced specialist housebreaking squads, when an earlier decision to scrap them led to a sharp increase in thefts.

Ch Insp Scobie said he would not be drawn on the statistics, but said he wanted to stress that the recent flurry of thefts in Grange was a “rarity and not an ongoing problem”.

The former inspector at Corstorphine police station added: “There’s a prevention element to it as well – we are also providing security advice.”

Tony Harris, chairman of Grange and Prestonfield Community Council, said: “It’s something that seems to go in waves – the police tell us this when they come to our monthly meetings.

“It’s not a new thing, but there seems to have been a bit more of a spate recently. That is often down to another little group attempting to have a go. It’s opportunistic.”

Police are advising householders to take extra steps to secure sheds and garages, such as investing in good quality padlocks, fitting security lighting and alarms – and even planting “aggressive” plants and shrubs such as hawthorn.

The affluent Grange area was among several Edinburgh communities chosen for the SmartWater pilot scheme, which involved householders being given hundreds of packs of the traceable liquid to mark their valuables.

The crime-busting kits led to a steep drop in housebreakings in the area, and 60 more kits were handed out in the Grange last month.

Ch Insp Scobie said Smartwater was one of a “suite” of tools to prevent crime. He added: “We are not increasing people’s fear of crime – rather, this is about successful enforcement.”