A charity has said it could be forced to stop using vans to collect clothing donations in some areas after one of its drivers was confronted by an angry mob and had to smash through an improvised barricade to escape.
The incident happened when a driver and his colleague from the Great North Air Ambulance Service were collecting donated clothes in Stockton-on-Tees, near Middlesbrough, last week.
The charity said that the pair pulled into a cul-de-sac where they caught two male teenagers, aged about 17, trying to steal bags of donated clothes intended for the charity.
The driver confronted the teenagers and told them to put the bags down, which they did, but with a volley of verbal abuse.
Moments later, more teenagers arrived along with two men and then a group of about 10 people created a barricade of wheelie-bins in an attempt to trap the collection van in the cul-de-sac.
The driver decided to use the van to ram through the improvised barricade and get away before the group could close in.
The charity said it was losing more than £5,000 a week in thefts of donated clothing and said the incident last week had forced it to consider stopping collections in the Stockton area.
It said people in Stockton-on-Tees should call the charity directly to arrange doorstep collections or use a community collection site rather than leave bags on the street.
The charity, which provides emergency and rescue services in north-east England, needs about £4m a year to keep flying.
"It’s a sorry state of affairs when something like this happens; in fact it’s disgusting," said Clare Crabtree of the charity’s trading company. "The driver has been left shaken by this incident – he’s in his 50s and wouldn’t harm a fly.
"This area has been a great supporter of our charity over the years, but we cannot continue to put our staff at risk."