Shock over charity break-ins in Lowestoft
PUBLISHED: 09:29 09 January 2015 | UPDATED: 09:29 09 January 2015
Staff at two charities in Lowestoft were left dismayed this week after their premises were targeted by burglars.
Police investigations are continuing after the North East Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Gordon Road and the Lowestoft and District Mencap facility, in Milton Road East, were broken into overnight on Monday and Tuesday.
The main office of the North East Suffolk CAB was broken into, with rooms trashed, windows smashed and a small amount of cash stolen, between 6.45pm on Monday and 8.15am on Tuesday.
The Unity Centre in nearby Milton Road East was then broken into between 12.30am and 1am on Tuesday morning – with damage caused as a till, three collection tins, cash and stock for the café were all stolen.
Officials at the two charities were forced to close on Tuesday – on just the second day of offering services to the public in the New Year – as they were left to clear up “an awful” amount of damage as police carried out inquiries.
Janet John, the chief executive of North East Suffolk CAB, said: “It is awful. Our first day back was Monday, and it is a busy time for us in what is the start of our 50th year.
“We dealt with 29 clients on the first day and I did not leave until 6.45pm on Monday.
“Returning at 8.15am on Tuesday, I found that someone had broken into the premises and had taken a fire extinguisher to every locked internal door,” Mrs John added.
She said there was “broken glass everywhere”, as six internal panelled doors were smashed and the offices broken into, with drawers pulled out and the contents dumped onto floors.
With the office dealing with “crucial services”, Mrs John added: “We are here to help people and we provide services to thousands of people a year. For someone to come into the charity and do this - well, its very sad.”
Given the extent of the damage, it meant that the CAB office had to close on Tuesday as people were “turned away” and volunteers were sent home – but the office was due to open once more yesterday.
It was a similarly sad situation that staff and volunteers at the Unity Centre found themselves on Tuesday, just weeks after the joy of winning a £50,000 grant in the People’s Millions regional vote.
David Hollingworth, vice-chairman of Lowestoft and District Mencap, said those vulnerable adults using the facility had been left “scared” by the break-in.
With an estimated £150 in cash stolen along with the till and about £40 worth of stock, staff and volunteers were left to clear up the damage – and also to explain to users why the centre had been forced to close on Tuesday.
Mr Hollingworth said: “Our main thought is how much it has affected our service users. They are all vulnerable, and it has taken us three years to build this facility and make them feel safe in the centre. The looks on their faces when they came in to find that their centre had been broken into, well you could see that they are all scared and are concerned it will happen again,” he added.
“It is very disheartening for us – our main objective is to keep them safe.”
■ Police said investigations into both break-ins were under way. Anyone with information should contact Lowestoft police on 101.
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