'Epidemic' of charity shop burglaries

Charity shop managers in Brighton and Hove have expressed concerns about an epidemic of break-ins after five shops in the area were targeted by burglars last weekend.

An Oxfam shop lost £1,000 in cash from a safe under the floor in one raid, while £450 and several radios were taken from a Scope shop. Thieves also tried to break into another two Oxfam shops and one belonging to the British Heart Foundation.

Angela Aitchison, the manager of the Oxfam shop that was burgled, said the thieves had taken three days’ takings. “There is an epidemic by the looks of it,” she said. “The volunteers come in here and work so hard in their own free time. It’s affecting their faith in people and their morale.”

The Scope shop, which has now been burgled five times in less than four years, was also vandalised. The burglars threw bleach and cleaning fluid around the shop and wrecked stock in its storeroom.

Lekha Klouda, director of the Association of Charity Shops, said charity shops were now seen as fair game by thieves, and incidents of burglary, shoplifting and threatening behaviour had all risen markedly in the past five years.

“Professional thieves no longer find life easy even in small commercial shops because mainstream retailers have invested in deterrent work,” she said. “Charity shops haven’t got the resources to install electronic devices.”

Aitchison said her shop would no longer be keeping any money on the premises. “We are upping our security and we are having to buy metal doors,” she said. “It’s going to be like Fort Knox in here.”

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