Householders are being urged to be vigilant after youths were spotted staking out properties in an affluent district of the Capital.
The youngsters were seen acting suspiciously in Morningside and claimed they were “looking for a lost cat” when confronted.
While the brazen tactic is not new, city police said the case highlighted why residents should always be careful about whom they answer their door to.
Thieves have been known to knock on doors to check whether the house is occupied, and if someone answers they give an excuse.
Criminals have been known to tell householders that they are looking for a “friend’s house” or claim they have kicked a ball into the back garden.
If the home is found to be empty, the thieves try to break in to the property.
The recent case in Morningside was reported by Arne Strid, chairman of the local community council, who said he spotted a pair of teenagers climbing a drainpipe near the entrance to the former Morningside railway station.
Mr Strid said: “I saw two guys trying to climb on the roof of The Open Door in Morningside Road, next to the old station. They were in the passage beside The Open Door. I waited until they climbed down and said ‘Can I help you?’ “They said they were looking for a cat. I followed them along the road a bit and then thought I couldn’t do much more.”
Chief Inspector Mark Rennie, area commander for South Edinburgh, said: “There have been incidents reported in the city whereby individuals unknown to the occupants have attended their address and provided an excuse which appeared suspicious. These include looking for a lost pet or a football, or getting the wrong address of a friend they were intending to visit.
“We would urge residents to always be vigilant when an unknown or unexpected caller attends their home, and report any suspicious behaviour to police immediately.”
He said housebreaking remained the Capital’s “top priority”, as the Operation RAC crackdown continues.
The major drive was unveiled two months ago following a spate of housebreaking incidents linked to cars being stolen.
The detection rate for domestic housebreakings has risen to 38 per cent since the launch of the scheme, which has involved a series of dawn raids and the use of the Police Scotland helicopter.
Officers are also investigating another brazen crime of dishonesty, believed to have been committed by someone as young as 12.
The youngster gained access to the Murrayfield View retirement development in Roseburn Place, before tricking people into giving him money for a community football team.
A resident, who asked not to be named, told the Evening News he wanted people to be aware of the con, which took place on April 27.
A police spokesman said: “A young boy, possibly aged around 12 years old, is believed to have spoken with a number of homeowners and requested donations for his football team. Police are looking to trace the boy in order to establish the full circumstances surrounding these reports.”