Mean thieves grab donation

By Hannah Norton

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Just days after going public with its funding crisis, Age Concern Whangarei was dealt another blow when well-prepared thieves stole a significant amount of money that had just been donated.

President Beryl Wilkinson announced on Monday that the organisation fears it will have to start slashing vital services for the district's elderly as it faces a $250,000 funding shortfall.

Then at 7pm on Tuesday, Ms Wilkinson received a call from a security company alerting her that sensors on their Manse St premises had picked up people moving around the building.

She arrived to find thieves had stolen cash from locked drawers in the offices, including a substantial sum that had been donated only that day. "They obviously came prepared. They opened the back windows by breaking the latch with some sort of tool.

"I think they were about to steal more but the alarms sounded and they escaped."

The theft was another setback for the organisation, which needed $350,000 a year to run, but due to loss of contracts and diminishing grants had raised only $100,000 this year, she said.

"It's an added blow. It depletes the financial situation even more, and the sad thing is that a portion of that was a kind donation."

Specialists visited Age Concern Whangarei yesterday to review the security system, looking to improve lighting on the premises and arrange a shorter alert time for alarms.

"It's obvious they must have shot out straight away once the alarms sounded. Although what is concerning is that no one around us rang about the alarms going off," Ms Wilkinson said.

"What is hurting us most is the feeling of invasion. We work very hard for what we get, to improve services to the older community."

The window latches had since been fixed and the organisation had also reviewed its banking practices, she said.

Whangarei Constable Kevin Crawford said there had been a number of burglaries recently around the Regent St and Bank St areas.

"There were a number of break-ins, going back to over the weekend."

In the case of Age Concern Whangarei, Mr Crawford said the organisation's money box had since been located, without the cash. "Inquiries are ongoing," he said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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