CHRISTMAS has been ruined for hundreds of children after thieves ransacked a youth centre stealing thousands of pounds worth of games and bikes.
Bosses at Sans Street Centre today told how they had been left heartbroken by the raid just as the group were preparing for their festive party.
The group’s 200 young members, aged from 11 upwards, were due to hold their celebration tonight. It will still go ahead, but with none of the equipment paid through from hard-won funding.
The thieves forced their way in between 6pm on Wednesday, December, 11, and 7.30am the following day.
They left a trail of destruction in the four-store building, smashing open locked cabinets and ripping a TV off a wall.
Workers at the centre, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009, are now counting the cost of the burglary.
Centre manager Sue Mileson said it would costs thousands of pounds to replace everything that had been stolen.
“There were about 15 mountain bikes and a lot of technical equipment, including laptops and Wii-Fits.
“We raised money for the young ones and now there has been this break-in.
“We are still in the process with the insurers to calculate an amount, but it was definitely thousands.”
A cleaner discovered the aftermath of the burglary, after locking up the night before.
Sue, who has worked at the centre for 12 years, added: “There is a lot of damage. They have ransacked all the offices, so there is a lot of mess to clear up.
“I’m just gutted for the local young ones and the people they serve in the community.
“There is a big TV they have not managed to get, but it is wrecked.
“The front door was broken into and the glass door you come then go through.
“When we came in, we just saw mess all over the place.
“When you walk round the building, as you go into each room, there is something else which is damaged or stolen.”
Grants and funding paid for a computer suite, games area and a studio with DJ equipment at the centre, which were all targeted in the raid.
Thieves even forced open secure cupboards where valuable goods were stored.
Sue added: “We will not give up. It is desperate times.
“A lot of the equipment they have taken is going to be no use to them.
“It is important information that it is going to be really painstaking for us to backup all of the stuff on those computers, that they will probably just wipe.”
Staff at the centre said the theft could not have happened “at a worse time of year.”
Senior youth worker John Johnston that the equipment could take years to replace.
“I wouldn’t say that it has ruined Christmas,” he said. “But it is something that we could have done without.
“It’s the damage they have caused as well. It was horrible when we came in on Thursday morning.
“The last time we had a break in like this must have been about 20-years-ago.”
Advice worker Becky Simpson, said the scene of devastation caused by the break-in, which has left her scared to work in the building alone, was “shocking.”
“It’s scary,” she said. “The fact that they took computers with private information on.
“And it’s frustrating. When I saw the damage on Thursday I thought there had been a murder because there were police cars outside and people going in the centre with gloves on.
“I was OK at first then I started crying. I think it was with anger.”
The 23-year-old, of Hillview, added that the centre will carry on as normal despite the damage caused.
“We will plod on. People have been asking if we are shutting down but we won’t.
“The younger ones heard about it on Facebook and things and they haven’t asked questions when they’ve come in.
“We will still have the Christmas party.”
Northumbria Police are appealing for anyone with information are asked to contact 101, ext 69191, quoting reference 191 121213, or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.