THIEVES have targeted a martial arts club for under-privileged youngsters.
The Dokan Karate Club, based at the Bunny Hill Centre, in Hylton Castle, was hit twice in less than 48 hours.
Organiser Kevan Mitchinson, who offers free training to children with parents on benefits, has been left baffled by the theft of two advertising banners. A third then went missing on Wednesday.
The 44-year-old, from Red House, said: “I just can’t understand why anyone would do something like this.
“The banners are paid for through club funds, money raised by the parents of the children who come here, so it’s like they are stealing from the kids.”
Mr Mitchinson, a 4th Dan black belt, had the 8ft and 5ft canvas signs specially made to help spread the word about the club, which has grown from 20 to 108 members since its launch two years ago.
“It’s definitely someone targeting the club,” said the dad-of-five.
“The first banner was stolen overnight on Saturday and the other one went on Monday afternoon.
“I don’t know what they are going to do with them. They don’t have any sort of re-sale value.
“The banner was tied to a fence. There is no way it could have blown away. It was securely fastened down.”
Mr Mitchinson runs a range of paid-for and free sessions at schools and venues across Wearside.
“It is the first time I’ve used a banner and we had a good response on the back of it,” he said.
“I paid about £30 to £35 each for them.
“Previously, I’d handed out flyers, but the banners really seemed to get people in.
“It certainly made a difference in the 10 or 12 days we had one of them up. Overall, the clubs have been a big hit. It’s great to get the kids involved and it also helps them stay active and keep fit.”
The theft has been reported to Northumbria Police, which is investigating the attacks.