TEENAGERS at a Wigan training scheme have been devastated by a crime spree which threatens their future.
Burglars have struck at the Youth Enterprise Scheme (YES) three times in as many weeks, stealing more than £8,000 worth of vital equipment.
In the latest upset, devastated leaders opened the premises in Baldwin Street, Lower Ince, to find that the main £1,500 air compressor – which spins the pneumatic power tools used by the 58 trainees – had been stolen.
Seven mini-motorbikes and a quad plus motorised buggy made by YES trainees have already been taken.
And a chest full of spanners and hand tools, and an engine hoist along with an electric winch used for hauling vehicles on to a trailer, were stolen by burglars the week before that.
It is believed that the thieves are using waste land at the rear of their compound to launch the burglaries.
And police are currently studying CCTV tapes for clues about the identity of the culprits, although YES bosses fear that the night-vision DVD records taken away by officers may not be of a high enough quality.
Programme director Abe Yusuf says that the scheme is still considering whether they can afford to put the thefts through their insurance, for fear of pushing annual premiums beyond a level that they can afford.
He hit out at the thieves for risking the future of a scheme, which is giving disadvantaged young people a chances.
YES offers level one courses in motor vehicle maintenance and motor vehicle construction.
The trainees are aged between 14 and 16 years old.
Many are disabled young people or those who have been excluded from mainstream education with the lure of motorbikes being used to re-ignite an interest in learning.
Mr Yusuf says that the thefts are blow against the community’s own youngsters and their chance to learn new life skills and build confidence they can take into adult life.
He is now appealing for help from the community so that they can stop the raids and secure the scheme’s future.
YES, which was founded a decade ago, also offers extensive personal development help to the teen trainees, including alcohol abuse awareness plus personal and sexual health.
Mr Yusuf said: “It is so frustrating to have this keep happening.
“I am sure that somebody in the community has heard about this and can help us get some of the bikes or the equipment back.
“I would think that the people doing it are hawking it around trying to sell it, so somebody must of have heard something about it or been offered some of the stuff.
“We aren’t a commercial thing, we are a training scheme set up to help the community so I hope people will look out for us and if they have seen anything funny going on the land behind us, I hope that they will speak up.
“We are, of course, insured, but it’s not clear whether we can afford to keep putting these thefts through the insurance, because if we did we may not be able to afford the premiums.
“Nobody needs telling that these are not easy times for funding so we need help from the community to make sure we can keep going.
“Although we still have some materials and tools, we are going to reduce what we do at the moment until we know if we are going to get replacements.”
Anybody who has been offered the mini motorbikes or automotive tools is asked to contact Abe on Wigan 01942 246948. To give information “strictly anonymously” contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Police confirm they are investigating the thefts. Anyone with information should cobntact Crimestoppers 0n 0800 555 111.