MORE police have been drafted in to protect a Hampshire community after a club was burgled four times in two weeks.

Patrols are being stepped up around the Bitterne Royal British Legion club in Southampton after more than £17,000 was stolen and property including slot machines and pool tables destroyed.

PC Mike Barnett said extra bobbies on the beat would reassure the community.

He said: “We are putting in more resources and stepping up patrol strategies. Not only do we have tactical police teams but also Safer Neigh-bourhood Teams out and Police Community Support Officers.

“We are hoping the media will help bring these incidents to the forefront and one of our main priorities is making the wider neighbourhoods in Bitterne, Thornhill and Harefield aware of what is happening to this charity.

“It is a soft target that has been here since the 1930s and I think the community will get behind us on this and deem this as unacceptable.”

Police believe more than one person was involved but could not confirm any motive behind the vandalism.

He added that police had visited the club to talk about security improvements.

Civic chiefs have also called for police to come down hard on the offenders.

Southampton City Council leader and Bitterne ward member Simon Letts said: “It’s really disturbing that a much-respected institution has been subjected to a sustained attack like this.”

Anyone with information should call PC Barnett at Bitterne Police Station on 101 or via Alternatively, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

LEGION INCIDENTS: Four incidents have taken place at Bitterne Royal British Legion club. They were:

  • Between 10.45pm on Thursday, February 13 and 9.45am the following day, someone tried to force open the side fire door by trying to cut off the padlock. Nothing was stolen but damage was caused to the door.
  • Between 11pm on Sunday, February 16 and 9.30am the following day, three sets of doors were forced open, and more than £16,000 of raffle prize money, till floats and takings were stolen from the safe inside the building.
  • Between 11.45pm on Wednesday, February 19 and 10am the following day, a further burglary took place. Doors, windows, fruit machines and a jukebox were smashed. Around £700 in cash was taken from the machines. A flatscreen TV was also taken.
  • Between 11am on Monday, February 24 and 7pm the following day, four large gas canisters used for the drinks pumps in the bar were tampered with, causing all of the gas to leak. These canisters are thought to be worth around £260.