Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston today branded as ‘cowards' those behind a mindless attack on cars of workers providing vital support for the vulnerable.
And he called on anyone with information on those responsible to come forward and help bring them to justice.
The shocking incident came as the response to the global Coronavirus pandemic gathers pace, with services across Middlesbrough working around the clock to support those hardest hit by the widespread shutdown and social distancing measures.
When key workers in the Connect Team at the Middlesbrough Intermediate Care Centre returned from an emergency call in the early hours of today (Thursday, March 26), they were horrified to discover that two of their cars had been broken into.
Windows had been smashed, and items taken from inside the vehicles parked at the Homerton Road facility.
The Connect service is Middlesbrough Council's emergency monitoring and response service which provides vital support for more than 3,700 users who have equipment installed in their home should they need to call for help.
Calls are assessed by customer support advisors who either send out emergency response officers or contact family or emergency services.
They receive calls from people who may have fallen, feel unwell or may have had an accident, as well as monitoring calls for Telecare service users who have smoke detectors, fall sensors, and carbon monoxide sensors in place.
Sergeant Mike Docherty, from the Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "We received a report of criminal damage to a motor vehicle and theft from a motor vehicle on Ormesby Road, Middlesbrough, between 8pm last night and 1.20am this morning.
"The cars belong to key workers who need them for essential travel to and from work, particularly at this time during the coronavirus outbreak.
"One of the vehicles had a sat nav and jewellery stolen from within it."
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "At a time when all decent people are pulling together in the face of an unprecedented challenge, this quite simply defies belief.
"It's an act of quite staggering cowardice, and those responsible are beneath contempt.
"The officers involved are understandably extremely upset as they rely on their vehicles to get to and from work, and in the current situation they may have difficulty getting them repaired.
"Someone knows who did this - tell the police, and let them have the justice they deserve."
The incidents are being investigated and anyone with information is asked to contact Cleveland Police on 101, quoting event number 047175.