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Smack addict 'zombies' roaming streets of Edinburgh suburb scaring locals as crime rates sky-rocket – The Scottish Sun

Smack addict 'zombies' roaming streets of Edinburgh suburb scaring locals as crime rates sky-rocket – The Scottish Sun

TRAINSPOTTING exposed Edinburgh’s drugs-fuelled criminal underbelly to a global audience.

The cult movie was set in the capital’s heroin-plagued days of the 1980s.

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Niddrie, on the south west of Edinburgh, is one of its most deprived areas

But to some residents in communities like Niddrie, the heartache caused by illicit substances is every bit as bad as 30 years ago.

Here, in the first of our special series on Scotland’s toughest estates, KEVIN DUGUID speaks to those whose lives are blighted by anti-social behaviour and drugs — and others who have battled back from addiction.

ZOMBIES roam the streets of Niddrie at night and frighten residents, according to one local activist.
That’s how Paul Nolan describes the army of heroin addicts who stalk one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas.

And he blames the ongoing drug misery for fuelling the area’s high crime rate — which has soared nearly 70 per cent above the national average.

Paul, a community councillor, said: “There are areas where there’s a huge amount of drug taking and there are people walking about half doped out of their face.

“It’s horrible to see and quite scary and frightening — especially when they are looking after children. What hope have they got when they are walking about doped up with a couple of kids?

“You wouldn’t want to walk about there in the dark. They come out at night. They look like zombies. They don’t have the same values and they are not interested in looking after their property.

“Their whole motivation every day is to get their hands on drugs.”

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The scheme is just five miles from Edinburgh’s famous Princes Street and the city centre attractions that lure millions of tourists each year.

But it’s a world away from the wealth and glamour associated with other parts of the capital.

More than 70 per cent of Niddrie residents are on benefits while nearly 30 per cent of children live in poverty.

There are 778 crimes for every 10,000 locals — 69 per cent above the 458 national average.

And the city’s stark social division is illustrated by the fact that just three miles away, in luxurious Marchmont West, only one per cent of the population is on benefits.

The plush area’s crime rate is just 19 offences per 10,000 residents. In Niddrie, teen yobs menace families by racing stolen motorbikes.

Locals claim the young crooks roar through the streets day and night — then torch the bikes when they get bored.

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Burnt out motorbike in Niddrie

And they claim cops are powerless to chase the thugs in case the thieves fall and get injured.

Resident Sheila McLeish, 41, said: “It’s an absolute menace. They use this scheme as a racetrack. The police know who it is, but they can’t chase them now.

“One of these days they are going to go tearing down and it’s going to be dark they are not going to see the chicane there and they are going to go flying over the bars.

“I’m not going to give them first aid. I’ll just phone the police and let them deal with it. They don’t realise how dangerous it is.”

Pointing to the fire-damaged shell of a motorbike, Sheila added: “They leave the bikes burned out and cars as well. They drive down the main road and near the primary school.

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Sheila speaks out about the problems in Niddrie

“Last year a motorbike had been stolen and they mounted the pavement and damaged the wall of a stairwell. They were lucky they got away with minor injuries.”

But there is hope amid the misery. Stephen McCallum, 40, spent 19 years as an addict and drug dealer.

But he turned his life around after seeking help from a local church — which led to him being reunited with his children.

Attracted by the supposed glamour and status of being a hood, Stephen admitted he decided to deal drugs when he struggled to find a steady job after school.

He said: “I felt like there weren’t many opportunities in the scheme. It’s ingrained into you that the only way to make a life for yourself is by selling drugs. When you left school you went on to youth training schemes.

“When you left there, there wasn’t much work. You grow up with the mentality of seeing all your mates doing that.

“Doing drugs is the gangster thing to do. It was almost glamourised.” And Stephen said illicit addiction continues to wreak havoc.

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Stephen says drugs in the area are rife

He said: “It’s still rife. There are drugs everywhere. Everyone is using. They’ll get up, watch Jeremy Kyle, take their methadone, smoke their dope, take their smack and then wake up and do it all over again.

“It breaks your heart. I’ve seen a lot of good guys wasting away.”

Stephen turned a corner when he started going to Niddrie Community Church. He volunteers at its coffee shop on a Monday and is training as an intern to support others.

The evangelical church, which hosts mother and toddler groups and five-a-side football, also taught him how to rebuild bridges with this children.

Stephen said: “By coming here I’ve learned to be a dad to my kids again. I was never there. I started taking my responsibilities and I have a relationship with my kids.”

But he said talented youngsters continued to struggle.

He added: “My son did two years of joinery at college. He was handed some tools, but there’s no work and now he’s working in Scotmid.”

Despite the drugs and crime some residents are still proud of their community which was built in the 1920s. Edinburgh Corporation built social housing for residents cleared from the slums of St Leonard’s Ward and local mining families.

Lots of rundown homes have been demolished, including almost all of Greendykes and the area north of Niddrie Mains Road.

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Most of the land has been zoned for more private housing.

Retired mill worker Rosemary Dailly, 66, has lived in various parts of Niddrie over the decades.

The street which she’s now called home for a decade is said to be one of the area’s crime hotspots.

But Rosemary claims she feels safer today than ever before and wouldn’t want to flit.

She said: “I grew up in Niddrie. It wasn’t a very nice place. The young ones ran riot. Years ago it was terrible but I haven’t had any trouble.

“Years ago if you said to somebody ‘Would you like to buy a house in Niddrie?’ they’d say ‘No danger’.

“But there have been changes. They put up newer houses and that has made a difference. And they are building new houses as well.

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Rosemary says she feels safer today than ever before

“Of course I’ve had all the smart remarks when they say ‘Where do you come from?’ But it gets exaggerated. I wouldn’t move out of here. I have nice neighbours.”

Lotto winner Jane Park also hails from Niddrie — and likes it so much she even stayed after scooping £1million with her first ever ticket aged 17.

Jane, right, grew up on the council estate with two drug user parents.

She ended up in foster care but defended the scheme on a documentary about her life. She said: “Niddrie’s not exactly Beverley Hills. It’s not full of £1million houses and Porsches. That’s not my upbringing.

“There was not a person in my community that didn’t have problems.” Jane snapped up a three-bed home in Prestonpans, East Lothian, after her win but moved back into mum Linda Restorick’s flat.

The pair were left shaken when their home was raided in 2014.

Jane eventually moved into her own house before selling it in 2016.

The blonde, who now lives with Linda in upmarket Prestonfield, said: “People that aren’t from Niddrie might be like ‘Eurgh’.

“But I think it’s good because all my family comes from there and everyone knows each other. It’s fine.”

Despair and debt have taken over

DEREK Laidlaw is a local church elder who has lived in Niddrie all his life.

The retired joiner, 67, says its social problems are linked to deep-rooted unemployment and hopelessness.

He said: “When I was a boy the area had three coal mines. There was plenty of work then Margaret Thatcher shut the pits in the 1980s.

“That had a huge impact. Jobs disappeared and youngsters felt they’d no hope or future — just struggling to find meaning in life.”

Derek believes a big cause of local problems is widespread use of credit or loans to make ends meet without means to meet repayments.

He added: “People with no jobs still feel they need a higher standard of living.

“That leads to crime — they worry about how they will cope with that debt.”

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