SHAMELESS thieves are targeting Scarborough charities by systematically stealing bags of donations left on doorsteps for collection.
One charity shop has lost 30 bags and another has been deprived of more than 70. The total thefts of the donated items amount to thousands of pounds.
There have been several reports of the driver of an unmarked white van taking bags before official collectors get there.
It is estimated that each full bag is worth about £10 to a charity and it is understood that the bogus collectors can sell the clothes to rag merchants who pay about £400 to £450 per tonne – which equates to about £5 per bag.
Linda O’Brien, the manager at Arthritis Research UK in Newborough, said: “Our driver has to go out really early to get there before they do. People report the vans but you are always too late to catch them.”
She added that out of 500 bags put through people’s letterboxes they used to get about 50 filled bags returned – but this had now dropped to about 21. “That is more than 50 per cent,” she said.
It is estimated that each full bag is worth about £10 to a charity and it is understood that the bogus collectors can sell the clothes for to rag merchants who pay about £400 to £450 per tonne – which equates to about £5 per bag.
Carol Davies, the manager of the PDSA shop in Newborough, said that at least 30 bags has been stolen in two separate incidents in the past two weeks.
She said: “We had this last year and my driver said someone took bags in the Old Town area. People should be aware that if it’s a charity there will be a charity number on the bag – there are some bogus bags.
“Most charity vans are clearly marked. Other charities must have been hit as well. I think the thieves are going around the streets every day.”
She added that around 20 bags were stolen in the Sandringham Street area on Monday (June 27) and a further 10 were taken from the Kingsway area of Newby on Wednesday, June 22.
Julie Griffiths, the manager of the British Heart Foundation shop in Newborough, said that bags were stolen on a regular basis and police were currently investigating the theft of at least 75 bags in the Malton area. She said: “This is stock that we desperately need in the current financial climate.”
Christine Render, the manager at Age UK in Newborough, said a number of their bags had recently been stolen in the Ewart Street area of Scarborough – they only get an average of 12 bags returned for every 400 they deliver.
She said: “We can’t survive on 12 bags. It got to the point where the van drivers were having to go out extra early to get there before them.”
Janice Finnerty, a keyholder at the Newborough branch of Oxfam, said they did not deliver collection bags. She added: “People usually leave them at the back door of the shop. People come around in the early hours to take them away.”
Inspector Tony Quinn, of the Scarborough Safer Neighbourhood Team, said that items which were stolen from outside people’s homes was an area where crime had risen.
He added: “It is a concern and we are actively targeting through Operation Webbed. One of the main things we are doing is stopping vehicles, such as vans, to check what loads they are carrying and that they have the correct licence or credentials.”
Insp Quinn said that if people were at all suspicious they should not ignore it but should contact the police immediately.
Every legitimate charity will have a registered charity number, which should be printed on the bag, as well alternative ways that you can donate.
Anyone with information relating to these incidents, or anyone who believes that bags are being stolen from their area, should not directly confront the thieves, but obtain descriptions of persons and vehicles, including the registration numbers, and call Scarborough Police on 0845 6060247 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.