Pickpocket gang made Festival bid

A GANG of Romanian pickpockets were caught targeting festival-goers in the city centre, it emerged today.

The thieves are also believed to have carried out “distraction” thefts from bags as well as shoplifting sprees while in the Capital.

They were caught by police after it emerged they were operating around Princes Street, The Mound and George Street, where the Spiegeltent was situated.

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Officers liaised with city council CCTV operators to identify and monitor the gang, who had travelled into Edinburgh from Glasgow for August.

The operation was revealed as new figures showed that assault and robberies, minor assaults, thefts, and vandalism all dropped in the Southside, where many Festival venues were located, last month.

Chief Superintendent Malcolm Graham, Edinburgh’s divisional commander, welcomed the area’s fall in crime over the month of the Festival.

He said: “We’re pleased that the Southside, which covers the Meadows, Bristo Square, Lauriston Place and many other places where Festival events are held, saw a substantial drop in crime.

“We had extra patrols on the streets, both uniformed officers and also plain-clothed teams. We also had cycling patrols in the Meadows, which are an effective way to keep up a high-visibility presence and to react quickly to incidents.

“I know street robberies are a crime which people are rightly concerned about. It’s a concern for people during the day but especially at night. We’ve put extra resources into tackling robberies earlier this year with Operation Arable and that will continue.”

The number of street robberies in the Southside during August fell from 13 for last year to just three this year.

Minor assaults dropped by 46 per cent, from 41 to 22, while vandalism decreased from 47 reports to only 18.

Thefts from Festival venues did increase against last year, from 71 to 76, although overall thefts from the area dropped from 114 to 96.

Fixed penalty notices handed out for antisocial behaviour were reduced from 25 to 11.

Festival-goers had been warned to guard against criminals expecting “rich pickings”. The threat sparked a warning from police to residents and visitors, advising them to keep their possessions safe and close at hand. Councillor Steve 
Cardownie, the city’s deputy leader and events champion, said: “These figures are great news. Unfortunately, festivals act as a magnet for those who want to indulge in criminal activity. At the end of the day, we had thousands of people flooding here and, despite that, there was so little crime, a fact which is a testimony to Edinburgh’s status as a safe city.

“I’m sure there are a number of factors involved in such decreases but I congratulate the police for their job in either dissuading criminals from taking part in illegal activity or apprehending those who were responsible.

“People who come to the city during the Festival want to know that it’s a safe place to be. These statistics reinforce the message that it is safe.”