Crime-hit neighbours on an Edinburgh estate are so fearful of break-ins they plan to install their own CCTV system.
Homeowners say teen scouts have been deployed to Swanston to case properties for seasoned housebreakers - a claim disputed by senior police chiefs.
Matters came to a head when a home was broken into to steal a car used as a getaway in a violent robbery of a Leith jewellers at the weekend.
Resident Ann Treherne, 59, said: “It’s really frightening to think people who were using sledgehammers were in someone’s home when they were in and asleep.
“Can you imagine what it must feel like to know that this gang were in your house - whilst you were at home?”
Relatively affluent with mainly elderly residents, neighbours say the area has attracted housebreakers and bogus workmen over the years being next to the city bypass for a quick getaway.
Problems died down until last year when there was a spike in shed and garage break-ins carried out by bike thieves.
“Our own shed was broken into and my neighbour’s garage was broken into twice within a matter of weeks,” said Ann.
A masked hoodie-wearing caller was also filmed on Ann and husband Iain’s doorbell camera “scouting out” properties.
“It would appear that children and youths are being recruited/employed to target certain households,” she said.
“This information is then passed on to the would-be burglars and the kids are paid handsomely for this information.
“More recently we had a report from a neighbour of a youth walking along her street and taking pictures with his mobile phone of some of the houses.”
Neighbours have now mobilised forming a Facebook page and WhatsApp group to share suspicious behaviour.
And more than 100 residents attended a recent community meeting to discuss chipping in for CCTV cameras to patrol one of the few entrances to the development.
The final straw came when a home was broken into on Swanston View last Friday night and a black VW Golf stolen from the driveway.
Robbers wielding axes and sledgehammers used the car in a raid on the Miena store on Great Junction Street on Saturday morning - fleeing with a five-figure sum of jewellery.
The Evening News told how hero shopkeeper Wail Al-Khamis, 55, put his life on the line to fight off the thugs armed with only a fire extinguisher.
Labour councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, Scott Arthur, said: “There is no doubt that policing in Edinburgh is underfunded by the Scottish Government.
“The City of Edinburgh Council is currently protecting communities from this by funding two community officers in every Ward at a cost of £2m.
“These officers do fantastic work, but the council can’t continue to rob education and homelessness services to fund them.
“Rather than the Council and residents like those in Swanston trying to fill the police’s funding gap, the SNP Government need to step up and resource the service properly in our capital.”
Mobilised residents have already succeeded in having Swanston designated a No Cold-Calling Area and hope to press-on with the CCTV project after a meeting next week.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "We have no evidence or intelligence at this time to support the claim that under 18s are being 'recruited' to obtain information on properties for potential housebreakers.
"Local officers have close links with the community and hold regular surgeries, where no concerns of this nature have been raised to us.
"There has been one reported break-in to a home in the Swanston area since the beginning of April 2019. Break-ins to outbuildings remain low and have reduced compared to the previous year.
"We appreciate the impact a break-in can have on a homeowner and the surrounding community, and urge people with concerns to speak to us and report suspicious behaviour to police via 101."