'It just feels like a kick in the teeth': Community centre manager left angry and upset after break-in

A community centre which rallies round to help those most in need has been targeted by a safe-stealing thief.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 3:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 5:04 pm
Damage was caused to the shutter before a thief broke in and stole the safe from Blackhall Community Centre.

Alison Paterson, who has managed Blackhall Community Centre for 14 years, says she has been left “deflated” following the burglary at the Hesleden Road venue at 3.30am on Monday, September 9, after a section of its shutter was cut away.

Alison had been called to the centre twice on Sunday morning, September 8, after residents got in touch to raise concerns about suspicious activity, with police visiting to carry out checks.

But someone went on to force their way in by cutting away a section of shutter and then smashing a window on the other side.

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The aftermath of the break-in to the centre.

The cream-coloured safe, which is around the same size of a microwave, was stolen from a wall.

The team say it is distinctive because a letterbox had been cut into it so that people could deposit cash inside easily.

They have been overwhelmed by the response from the community, but feel downhearted the place they have put so much work into has been targeted.

Alison said: “A resident had sent me a photo to say ‘Was this like this yesterday?’ and I thought ‘No it wasn’t’ and went along and realised the shutter was like it was and someone had smashed the window and got in through the tiny gap.

The space on the wall where the safe had been installed.

“They’d taken the safe off the wall, but there was no other damage or anything else taken.

“I was brought to tears and it just feels very personal because we are so passionate about the place and that someone has wiped out our hard work.

“We feel deflated and it just makes you think, why do we bother, why should we help?

“We do food parcels, help people make benefits check, we run courses, run a gym.

Inside the community centre following the burglary.

“But we’ve had huge support, lots of people on Facebook saying why has this happened, but you just hope that when you have a shutter and double glazing you’ll be secure.

“It just feels like a kick in the teeth.”

Durham Constabulary is investigating the break-in, with anyone with information is asked to call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

A shutter to the building was damaged and allowed a thief to get into the centre.