Thieves target charity vehicles

Paula Woolven with PCSOs Chris Marchant and Stacey Jennion
Paula Woolven with PCSOs Chris Marchant and Stacey Jennion

A charity which provides low cost travel to vulnerable, isolated and elderly people was counting the cost after heartless thieves stole parts from their minibuses in Newhaven.

Volunteers and staff at Community Transport for the Lewes Area were left devastated when they discovered a catalytic converter and an exhaust had been taken from the new vehicles this week.

The charity estimated around £1,000 of damage was caused to the minibuses which will now be out of action until they can repaired.

The thefts took place when the vehicles were parked at the Hillcrest Centre, in Hillcrest Road.

So far a trip to the Arndale Centre in Eastbourne for ten elderly people who struggle with mobility was cancelled as a result of the damage inflicted on the charity’s minibuses.

The residents, who were mostly from the havens area, are either unable to use public transport or lack the confidence to use public transport.

The theft also meant school children with special needs were made late for school while other arrangements were put in place to transport them after the plundered minibuses were discovered.

Sussex Police said a catalytic converter and an exhaust were stolen from a minibus and another minibus was tampered with overnight on Monday September 8 and Tuesday September 9.

Community Transport for the Lewes Area makes 7,000 journeys a month, ferrying vulnerable and isolated people to and from the shops, doctor’s appointments and social occasions.

CTLA said the cost of repairs, administration and loss of income not met by insurance, will be a considerable blow to the charity, which operates in towns and villages including Newhaven, Peacehaven, Seaford and Lewes.

Once all the factors are taken into account the true cost to the charity could be closer to £5,000 or £6,000.

Community manager Paula Woolven said: “Anyone who could steal from a vital support charity like CTLA is the lowest of the low.

“It’s not just about the financial cost and inconvenience - for many of our clients, the CTLA bus journey is their only contact with the outside world.

“Our volunteers and staff are devastated - they know how much our service means to people who may otherwise be confined to their own homes or rely on us for shopping and healthcare.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “It is a heartless act that will impact on the community.”

Contact police on 101 or email 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk quoting serial 0239/9.