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Metal thieves leave Bermondsey disabled housebound
Tuesday, 31 January 2012
DISABLED people have been left stuck in their homes after metal thieves repeatedly targeted a fleet of vans used to take them to day centres.
In total, 17 catalytic converters, costing £800 each to replace, have been stolen from the Camden Society charity’s transport vehicles in South London.
In the most recent theft, two weeks ago, the charity’s car park off Jamaica Road, Bermondsey, was broken into and four converters were taken from vans.
The vehicles are used to bring people with learning difficulties to The Riverside day centre, which the charity runs in Cherry Garden Street, Bermondsey.
Vans in the car park at the charity’s Queens Road Day Centre in Peckham have also been hit.
Tom Young, 28, deputy manager at The Riverside, said the thefts had a huge impact on the service, which is used by more than 40 people every day.
He said: “We need the vans to ferry people, some as old as 80, to the centre and home again. “Without transport we have to cancel classes and even close the centre, which has a terrible effect on our service users.
“They rely on this place, not only for the activities but to meet their friends and socialise.”
The Riverside offers classes and sessions for people of all ages with learning difficulties.
But since it opened 12 months ago, metal thieves have struck four times, with 12 catalytic converters stolen.
Five more have been stolen from vehicles in Peckham.
Lee Eidson, 28, of St James’s Road, Bermondsey, has learning difficulties and uses the Bermondsey centre five days a week.
He takes classes in drama, music and keep-fit as well as taking part in a lobby group to represent people with learning difficulties.
Lee said: “We have talked about the people who are doing this in the group and we are really angry with them.
“We would like to ask them how they would feel if they had special needs and someone stopped them going to their club. It’s not fair.”
When the thieves strike, the charity has to pay for the vehicles to be towed away, repaired, and the cost of renting replacement buses at £360 a week each.
Their insurance bill has soared and staff are taking vans home at night in a desperate bid to keep them safe.
The thefts are part of an epidemic which has seen statues, wiring in railway signal boxes, memorial plaques and even gravestone lettering taken.
Rising numbers of catalytic converters are being stolen from vehicles because of the high-value platinum they contain. Last month, the Met started a Waste and Metal Theft Taskforce to try to tackle the problem.
Southwark police confirmed they were investigating the catalytic converter theft at the Riverside on January 9.
A police spokeswoman said enquiries were continuing and anyone with information should contact the Southwark priority crime unit on 020 7232 6145.
All content © of South London Press unless stated otherwise.
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