Thieves target charity shops in the Merton area


Heartless thieves are stealing vast amounts of stock from Merton’s charity shops.


By Kerry-Ann Virgo

Heartless thieves are stealing vast amounts of stock from Merton’s charity shops.

They are targeted because security is not as tight as in other shops and there are fewer staff on the shop floor.

Sam Maple, who has been the manager of Cancer Research on Wimbledon Broadway for 18 months, reports thefts to the value of at least £150 per week.

“All shops suffer from it, it’s an ongoing problem,” she said.

“The most upsetting thing is that my volunteers give up their time and put in so much effort, just for these people to rub it in their faces by stealing from us.”

She says it is difficult to make charity shops theft-proof. They are easy targets because they cannot afford to attach security tags, and have few shop assistants and no security staff.

An electronic security unit, placed before the door to set off an alarm when a tagged item is taken through its dual pillars, costs £1395 to install. A pack of 50 security tags costs £29.95.

Shops not only have the initial outlay but buying the tags for the thousands of items sold would cost a fortune.

“They do it because it’s easy. There’s no support for charity shops,” said Vennesha Knight, manager of FARA Wimbledon. “There’s a special place in hell for these people.”

She says her shop losses between £50 and £100 per week to shoplifting and that culprits sell the stolen goods at car boot sales or on Merton’s estates.

“They are alarmingly organised,” she said. Some bring large bags, filled with newspaper, which they leave in changing rooms to make room for shop goods. This way staff do not notice when a shopper’s bag suddenly fills.

Others have set diversionary tactics or target periods when older staff members are manning the tills.

Shops have regular thieves who steal items on a weekly basis.

Libby Dey, Cancer Research area manager for the South East and Kent, says the problem affects staff morale.

“Managers get despondent,” she said. “They work so hard and thefts are disheartening.”

Spokesman for Cancer Research UK, Laura Peters, said: “Our funding comes from public support, and profits from the shops make up a significant part of this.

“We are really sad to hear about thefts in our shops, as profits from the sale of the items would have helped to fund our vital research into beating cancer.”

Weekly theft estimates from the Wimbledon store add up to a yearly loss of almost £8000, from this shop alone.

Cancer Research UK says this amount could fund a Cancer Research supported PhD student for 2 months, as well as buying 30,000 glass slides to study cells and tumour samples under microscopes and buying four liquid nitrogen storage vessels for long-term storage of tumour samples at ultra-low temperatures.

Inspector Helena Devlin, Merton Borough Police, said: “These items have been donated by members of public in support of the good work carried out by these charities.”

She says stealing items from charity shops is a criminal offence and will be investigated fully as such.

Contact Crimestopper on 0800 555 111 with information regarding the thefts.

Picture by Sanja Gjenero

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