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Break-ins at Barlaston

Esperanto House, our headquarters, sits on a site of the former Wedgwood Memorial College in Barlaston, Staffordshire, alongside a much bigger building named Estoril, after which this particular site is named.

Wedgwood Memorial College was closed down in April 2012, and since then both Estoril and The Limes, the main building on the second site, have been empty. Naturally enough, two large buildings standing derelict over the past decade has led to vandalism, forced entry, and squatting. This recently progressed to Esperanto House, which suffered a break-in when a perpetrator smashed the glass of the door to the Butler Library and let himself into the property.

His haul was particularly unimpressive, limited, it appears, to some petty cash, a first-aid box (he cut himself smashing the glass, handily leaving some DNA around for forensics, who have already matched him to an individual in their database), and about seventy copies of one of our children's books. Following the break-in, we immediately placed some valuable artefacts (such as the painting of Zamenhof from 1907 by Felix Moscheles, and some historical journals from the Butler Library) into external storage away from Barlaston.

Unfortunately, despite the poor hoard, the perpetrator appears to have informed an accomplice about an office which isn't occupied around the clock, and the following weekend another crook broke in, this time smashing the glass panes in every door, and ransacking also the upstairs. As before, his efforts don't appear to have been worth the while: he left with an old, unused digital camera from 2005, and an old, low-spec (£300!) laptop which barely runs, and which can only be accessed via an admin password anyway.

Following the initial break-in we purchased CCTV, the installation of which was kindly expedited because of the second. The police have been very helpful, responding extremely promptly both times, and getting the forensics crew out immediately. We're now looking into purchasing external iron shutters; the landlords have given permission but, unfortunately, planning permission needs to be sought from the Borough Council, which is a slow process and not guaranteed to succeed.

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