POLICE have defended the use of riot officers and a helicopter in Edinburgh city centre while attempting to apprehend two men suspected of stealing a motorbike.
Part of Cockburn Street in the Old Town was cordoned off by police on Saturday night, with witnesses reporting seeing balaclava-clad officers with shields searching buildings.
Police Scotland said it followed reports of a motorcycle being driven in a “potentially dangerous manner around the city”.
Panic spread on Saturday amid reports on social media of a gunman on the loose after around 50 officers descended on Cockburn Street.
However, police last night said the operation was sparked when two men ran off from officers in the city’s Tron Square at around 8pm. A stolen motorbike was recovered nearby.
During the search for the two men, one went on to a rooftop in Cockburn Street.
Police said specialist public order officers and a police helicopter were required due to the “height and potential danger” that the suspect had placed himself, and those trying to detain him, in.
A cordon was put in place to contain the suspects as well as provide a clear space for the police and fire services to work in, Police Scotland said in a statement.
Superintendent Angus MacInnes said: “At no time during the incident on Cockburn Street were the public in any danger. We are aware of speculation on social media sites that this incident involved firearms, however, I can categorically state that was not the case. At no time was this a ‘firearms incident’ and no firearms officers were deployed to the scene.
“The use of the police helicopter and a small number of officers with shields was simply about ensuring a safe and co-ordinated apprehension of the suspects.
“There were clear risks and challenges due to the height and size of the building and our response aimed to manage the risks and to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”
Police said the two men had put the public in danger by the way they had been riding the motorbike.
One man has been detained, while a positive line of inquiry is being followed to trace the other suspect.
Fire crews had joined officers just off the Royal Mile from 10pm as crowds gathered around a cordon.
Police searched floor by floor the former Scotsman building at 30 Cockburn Street after a man was reported to be on a roof.
One witness said: “The helicopter has been circling for more than an hour shining its search light down over the tops of buildings.
“The police have been warning us all to stay back.”
Some onlookers took to Twitter to describe the scene. Rudra Kapila wrote: “Area is mini war zone.”
Abbie Jessie added: “All the streets have been blocked off by police and helicopters.”