MASKED teenagers speeding around on stolen motorbikes in the north of the city are “terrorising” families and forcing them out of their homes.
Residents in Muirhouse and surrounding areas told the Evening News they were scared to leave their doorsteps amid fears of being targeted by reckless joyriders – even during the school run.
A core gang made up of between 10 and 15 teenagers gather at the area’s shopping centre around 3pm every day before driving off, plaguing the streets until the early hours of the morning.
One disabled man told the News he had been forced to flee his home due to the constant chaos and was now living in another part of Edinburgh. The man – who is too scared of reprisals to be identified – pinpointed Pennywell Road as the most dangerous stretch.
He said: “I can’t live like this any more. They’ve actually forced me out of my flat and I’m living somewhere else in the city.
“I’m terrified and I feel like nothing is being done about it.
“They are noisy, they are dangerous, they are intimidating, they are masked.
“I’ve almost been hit by one of them driving down the road on a motorbike about 70mph.
“It’s not just that, they urinate on people’s property too, it’s just totally unacceptable.”
Police said the number of officers on the ground had been increased, while a force helicopter has been regularly keeping an eye from the sky.
But other residents told the Evening News that the masked teenagers don’t care about being caught.
One, who lives in Muirhouse Avenue, said he had even resorted to arming himself before venturing outside.
“It’s got to the stage I have to take a baseball bat with me every time I go out,” he said.
“Someone is going to get seriously hurt or even killed – it’s only a matter of time.
“I’ve watched them smash my neighbour’s wing mirror and give two fingers to the police.
“They are reckless and are completely terrorising our community.”
Parents are too scared to let their children outside to play, while just last month the News told the story of local resident Rebecca Campbell’s pet cat Tigger, who was deliberately mown down and killed by a yob biker.
A mother-of-two, who is also too frightened to be named, said: “These teenagers are making my children’s life a misery. The problem just seems to be getting worse. They are absolutely terrified to come out of the house when the motorbikes are about. They shouldn’t be made feel like that when they are going to school.
“I think the fact the teenagers cover their faces with scarves, or pull their hoods in really tight to make it look as if they are wearing a mask, makes it scary too.
“At the speed they drive, it’s only a matter of time before someone is killed.”
She added: “These teenagers think they are untouchable, something needs to be done and fast.”
Community group Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse (TRIM) said it was inundated with calls from locals when the bikes were out and posted warnings on its Facebook page.
A spokesman said: “Some of the things locals are reporting is utterly shocking.
“There is a real fear among residents that it’s only a matter of time until an innocent member of the community is killed by an out-of-control biker.
“We are not talking about kids scooting about on mopeds, they are using high-powered bikes that they think they can drive safely.”
But he refused to blame police, claiming officers on the ground had been left in a difficult position.
He added: “If the police get involved in a pursuit and someone gets hurt they have questions to answer. If they don’t pursue and someone gets hurt they again will have the finger pointed at them.
“Lots of locals who are in touch with us tell us they can’t always report issues to the police as the 101 number charges.
“We have advised people to call 999 to report issues but they get told it’s not an emergency and get cut off. That issue is one that needs to be addressed by Police Scotland.
“TRIM as a group feel that there is a real lack of information coming from the police about what they are doing to combat this problem.
“They don’t tell anyone what’s going on – in the past few nights there have been more officers out on foot patrol but they can’t stop these kids on bikes tearing around the streets.
“Another complaint from lots of locals is the lack of any action when people are caught.
“Some of the riders will be caught by the police and the very next day be back out on another bike. It seems the court service don’t take this matter seriously. I am sure they will look at it differently if someone gets killed.
“It’s a really frustrating situation and locals are becoming angry with what’s going on.”
Community safety leader Councillor Cammy Day wants court officials to visit Muirhouse in a bid to convince them to dish out tougher sentences.
He said he would be working alongside fellow councillor Vikki Redpath and the wider community over the coming weeks to draft up a petition calling for the Scottish Government to intervene.
Councillor Day said: “I would ask for the Justice Secretary and the Sheriffs of the court to come to Muirhouse just to experience what our local people are dealing with.
“It’s an absolute disgrace such a small group of people can cause so much disruption.
“Despite the efforts of the local authority and the police, the court just seem to give these people a slap on the wrist and they are let back out into the community again. They need to be dealt with more severely.
“Muirhouse is such a great community. We are going to have a new shopping centre and loads of new houses. We can’t let a small handful of people ruin it for everyone.”
Police said they were determined to crack down on the tearaway teenagers.
Chief Inspector Jimmy Jones, area commander for north-west Edinburgh, said: “Police in Edinburgh were called to an address in Pennywell Road following several reports of antisocial behaviour.
“Inquiries into these incidents are continuing and local officers are currently investigating. Additional patrols are taking place in the Pennywell Road area and officers are utilising CCTV to monitor the surrounding area. We are aware of issues surrounding antisocial behaviour and the use of motorcycles in the north Edinburgh area.
“We cannot tolerate this type of criminality in our communities and as part of Operation Soteria, Northwest officers assisted by colleagues from across the city will continue their daily efforts to combat this reckless and disruptive behaviour.
“However, to better enable police and partners to tackle this issue, we need members of the local community to provide information on the perpetrators or if known, where the bikes are being hidden.”