Local families have been left “disappointed” and “upset” following the theft of heating oil from a Whitehead children’s centre.
The incident took place over the new year at Whitehaven Respite Unit on Edward Road.
The unit, operated by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, offers short breaks for children and young people who have physical or learning disabilities.
Linda Guthrie, deputy team leader at Whitehaven, said staff first realised something was amiss when they returned after the new year break.
“We came back in on January 2 and the building just wasn’t heating up; it was getting colder and colder,” she added.
“When we realised what had happened we informed the police, but because we couldn’t heat the building, we had to send the kids home.”
Although the facility was up and running again the following day, the theft meant five children from the Trust area missed out on their break at Whitehaven.
“They couldn’t come on a different date as other children were already booked in,” Linda said.
“It was very upsetting for the kids and their families as they rely on those short breaks for a bit of respite.
“We’re providing an important service for the community here and because of this theft these kids have lost out.
“It’s so disappointing for the families.”
It is estimated that approximately 1500 litres of oil was stolen from the tank.
PSNI have appealed for anyone who has information on the theft to come forward.
“If you noticed anything suspicious in the Edward Road area of Whitehead between 7pm on Sunday, December 31 and Tuesday, January 2, or you have information which would assist police with their enquiries, please contact us on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers using reference number 1034 2/1/18,” a PSNI spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, police have given advice on a number of precautions to help protect oil:
Lock gates; disguise your tank; create obstacles; limit the quantity of fuel in your tank; lock your tank; fit a level gauge with an audible alarm; consider installing security lighting and CCTV.
“Above all report any suspicious behaviour to local police on 101,” the spokesperson added.
“It takes a pretty big tanker to steal home heating oil. If you don’t recognise the company, think your neighbours aren’t in or more importantly know they had an oil delivery recently, then phone us straight away. We all work hard to heat our homes, please work with us to stop these crimes.”