Shoplifters cost charities £15m: Heartless criminals are targeting shops every day… and staff say there’s no point telling police
- The shocking figure comes from an exclusive poll of UK charities
- It found that 80 per cent saw an increase in thefts of donated items
Heartless shoplifters have stolen more than £15million of stock from charity shops in the past year, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The shocking figure comes from an exclusive poll of UK charities, which found that 80 per cent had seen an astonishing increase in thefts of items that had been kindly donated by the public.
More than half of those polled said they had witnessed an increase in abuse of staff and volunteers in the past 12 months.
Last night, charity shop workers and volunteers said they no longer ‘bother to call the police’ when thieves strike, because officers will not come out to investigate. The vast majority of charities – 85 per cent – said they do not report the thefts, which happen daily. Those that do report crimes said police officers only turned up to investigate one in five cases.
The poll, by the Charity Retail Association, which represents 9,000 charity shops, also found that over the past year two-thirds of stores have had to install new security measures to combat thieves – diverting an extra £4million away from good causes.
The shocking figure comes from an exclusive poll of UK charities, which found that 80 per cent had seen an astonishing increase in thefts of items that had been kindly donated by the public
One children’s charity in West London shared dramatic footage of a thief brazenly walking out with a 40in TV that had been donated to the store
Robin Osterley, chief executive of the association, said: ‘The loss of these funds through shoplifting can have a direct impact on the ability of charities to provide or expand these services, which is why seeing so many shops affected and an increase in shoplifting over the past year is so concerning.
‘It is something that charity shops urgently need support with, whether it is increased support from the police or campaigning at a national level to stop the abuse that is faced by retail staff and volunteers.
‘Being predominately bricks-and-mortar stores with large volumes of stock, they are often a target for shoplifting, as well as abuse of staff and volunteers.
‘Among some criminals there seems to be a perception that this is a ‘victimless crime’, as most of the goods stolen have been donated by the public. However, the effect on the morale of staff and volunteers can be devastating, as well as the loss of potential income, so this is far from the case.’
The MoS has launched a campaign calling on the authorities to crack down on shoplifting amid concerns from retailers over an ‘epidemic’ of thefts that has cost supermarkets and high street stores more than £1billion a year.
Last night, charity shop workers and volunteers on the retail front line said they were struggling to cope. One children’s charity in West London shared dramatic footage of a thief brazenly walking out with a 40in TV that had been donated to the store.
The thief, wearing an orange T-shirt and blue jeans, strolled into the Little Lives UK shop in Raynes Park, picked up the screen, on sale for £200, and calmly walked out past browsing customers during the middle of the day.
Krisztina Schafler, founder and director of Little Lives UK, said that even after staff handed police the footage of both the TV thief and of a getaway van that was waiting outside, Scotland Yard closed the case after just one day and no further action was taken.
Other crimes caught on CCTV by Little Lives UK in recent months showed a thief picking the pocket of a customer, another stealing a laptop from behind a shop’s counter and a man taking a pair of jeans from the rail, rolling them up and trying to stuff them down his trousers before he was challenged by a volunteer.
‘Since the stores opened in 2017, each year has got worse and worse,’ Ms Schafler said. ‘Just last week we had a big £200 guitar stolen. They just run.’
The charity operates four shops in London. Ms Schafler, who works at the shop in Raynes Park, said: ‘Hundreds of pounds a week is taken from just our one store, thousands a month.
The thief, wearing an orange T-shirt and blue jeans, strolled into the Little Lives UK shop in Raynes Park, picked up the screen, on sale for £200
He then calmly walked out past browsing customers during the middle of the day
‘But unless your life is in danger, the police just won’t come. We no longer report 90 per cent of the crimes because the police just don’t come and investigate anything.’
Ms Schafler said she tells her staff not to approach thieves in case they turn violent, adding: ‘My staff are not allowed to be in the store on their own. We always have two employees working so that they’re not in danger.
‘My staff and I feel less and less safe. I tell them to never approach or question someone who is stealing. We have had people with scissors and knives on them. We sometimes get great items and high-end brands donated, but we’re too scared to put them out on display. In our Fulham store we had a Gucci jumper, and it wasn’t even in the shop for ten minutes. Someone came straight in and took it. Nothing is safe.’
Another small charity told the MoS it had lost £45,000 in the past year due to theft.
Legal action against shoplifters is declining. In the year to June 2022, 21,279 people were prosecuted for shoplifting in England and Wales, compared with 80,352 a decade ago. A change in the law in 2014 meant those charged with stealing goods worth less than £200 fall under the bracket of anti-social behaviour, so were likely to receive a fine without having to appear in court.
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ONE charity shop targeted by callous shoplifters has had to resort to removing cash donation boxes to stop thieves helping themselves to the contents.
Lee Reynolds, general manager of the White Rose in Nottingham, which sells second-hand fashion items, said: ‘I could confidently say that we currently have hourly incidents.
‘From the incidents recorded and the burglaries, we estimate around £45,000 has been lost across our 14 stores due to shoplifting in the last year. We have had to remove cash donation pots from our shop floors. We had one example of when a staff member was serving, a shoplifter broke into the till drawer and stole the day’s takings.
‘We now have CCTV in every shop. Store managers have access to internal radios to quickly call for help if they feel at risk, and we have rolled out intruder alarms and movement sensors to cope with the rise in break-ins.’
Home Office data shows that shoplifting rose by 24 per cent last year, as thieves take advantage of lax policing and a criminal justice system that often lets off perpetrators without jail sentences.
Retailers said there are now ten million thefts every year – about 30,000 per day, or one every two seconds.
In response to our campaign, the Policing Minister Chris Philp last week called on police forces to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to shoplifting.
Policing leaders have vowed to investigate every crime.
Heartless criminals target shops every day …and staff say there’s no point telling police
Dressed in orange T-shirt, the thief strolls into Little Lives UK in West London, heads straight for the massive TV set on sale, and lifts it up.
He appears to struggle with the weight of the 40in television, lifting it with his left leg to get a better grip on his prize.
Right in front of the store’s CCTV camera, the shoplifter carries the TV past rows of second-hand clothes and makes for the exit.
The thief brazenly walks out of the shop in broad daylight, carrying his booty, heading for a getaway van that is parked close by.
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