This is the devastating damage caused to a garden project helping disabled people in Sunderland
Staff at a Sunderland nursery and garden centre which helps people with disabilities have been left devastated after being targeted by vandals twice in a week.
Sunderland Homegrown CIC, based in Thompson Park, has been hit by a double break-in, with those responsible seemingly intent on destroying the hard work of everyone involved in the project.
Although nothing was taken from the break-ins, staff believe the cost of the damage will amount to more than £500.
Intruders smashed glass in the windows of the green houses and the woodshed, caused damage to the polytunnels and destroyed plants - including smashing up pumpkins grown by the service users.
Debbie Byers is the manager and director of Sunderland Homegrown CIC, and works alongside manager Gary Hillery to deliver the scheme.
Debbie, 55, from Pallion, said: “The project is for people with disabilities and it is not good therapy for them to come in and see this damage.
“Some of them have felt ill because of it and have been really unhappy because of what these people have done.
“They can’t understand why someone would do something like that when it doesn’t belong to them.
“It has taken us all day to put it straight and we have tried to temporarily mend things, but as a community initiative we completely rely on funding and the damage is going to cost hundreds of pounds to put right.
“We want to get these people prosecuted so they can see that they can’t get away with it.”
The facility already has a number of security measures, including a 6ft fence around the property, high security locks and CCTV, so the break-ins have come as a shock to staff and service users alike.
Around 26 people with disabilities and mental health problems come to the site Monday to Friday, to grow produce.
Students from Sunderland College and Portland Academy also use the facility, which helps service users to gain employability skills and grow in confidence.
The first break-in happened overnight between Tuesday, October 2 and Wednesday, October 3, when two people cut the locks to gain access.
The premises were targeted again on Tuesday, October 9 and Wednesday, October 10, when entry was gained by smashing a window.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “Police are investigating after a premises in Sunderland was broken into twice in a week.
“At some point overnight between October 2 and October 3, two unknown offenders, described as wearing hooded tops, have cut the locks to gain access to a property in Thompson Park.
“The premises was then broken into again overnight between October 9 and October 10 when entry was gained by smashing a window.
“Nothing has been taken, although a substantial amount of damage has been caused.
“We currently believe the incidents to be linked and our officers are working with the owner to try to identify those responsible and have asked anyone with information to contact them by calling 101 quoting log 258 3/10/18 or 10/10/18.”