A Wigan church has been targeted repeatedly by groups of youths who have smashed its windows in outbursts of mindless vandalism.
The Salvation Army building on Scholes has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour on four occasions within the past two weeks, with youngsters also spotted taking illegal drugs around the site.
The organisation expressed its frustration following the most recent incident on Sunday night.
That followed almost-identical incidents of glass being smashed to smithereens on March 15, March 20 and March 22.
In each case the offenders have made no effort to enter the church or steal anything but merely trashed windows and glass in the doors, leaving the Salvation Army with a bill for around £400 per incident.
Corps officer Mark Lewis said: “We’ve been having problems with a gang of youths over the past few weeks.
“They started breaking windows and have been damaging them one by one. The first one was while I was here working on my own but the rest have been under cover of darkness. It’s just pure vandalism.
“The police suspect it’s one group of youths responsible for this. I’ve seen some of them smoking weed. Sometimes there’s just a couple of them, sometimes six or eight.
“I would say some of them are school age and I would be able to identify a few of them. I believe there have been problems in other parts of Scholes and in Wigan town centre too.
“It’s very frustrating and it takes a lot of time to deal with which means I’m not able to do things I’m supposed to be doing, like running the church, leading services, visiting people or making sure the building is suitable for us with health and safety.”
Mr Lewis said the total bill to repair the building could now be as high as £1,600 and there are obvious concerns for the church that with a spate of offences more havoc could yet be wrought if those responsible are not punished.
However, Mr Lewis said he did not blame police for not doing more to stop the crime wave.
He said: “I don’t think the police are well-enough staffed to keep on top of this kind of incident.
“They need more staff which of course requires more funding. In my opinion they are not getting that sufficiently.”
The Salvation Army Wigan has reported all the incidents to the police.
It is believed that following the most recent attack Greater Manchester Police (GMP) will look to escalate its response due to the recurring nature of the attacks.
However, GMP had not provided a comment as we went to press.