CHARITY shop owners have hit out at heartless thieves stealing bags of donations in the Wrexham area.
In recent weeks the British Heart Foundation (BHF) store on Egerton Street in Wrexham has reported a shortage of stock due to bogus van drivers in the area stealing their donation bags.
The charity said people posing as their collection drivers have been driving around the streets of Wrexham picking up bags of donations left out for the BHF by members of the public.
The situation has got so bad that the store has put up an urgent plea for donations in its window.
Jacqui Webb, BHF area manager for North Wales and the Wirral estimated that the theft of donation bags in Wrexham alone is costing the charity £300-£350 per week.
“Wrexham is being hit the worst,” she said.
“It’s a heartless thing to do and what these people don’t realise is how much we depend on those donations.
“Over a year ago our drivers were picking up 60 bags a day and that’s now down to 20 bags.
“We have to pay the drivers and if they’re bringing in less stock because of it then it’s less money for the foundation which means less money is going towards the prevention of heart problems.”
She said the thefts have become worse in the past year due to the difficult economic climate and the growing popularity of rag traders who pay cash for bags of old clothing materials.
“One bag can be worth in the region of £10 on the rag market so these bogus collectors are driving around in gangs either late at night or early in the morning before our drivers come round and taking the donation bags.
“It’s been getting progressively worse over the past year, one of our drivers even stopped someone who had eight of our bags in the boot.
“The bags are worth £15-20 to us and it’s getting harder and harder to get stock.”
Jacqui is calling on Wrexham residents to be vigilant and not to put out their donation bags too early.
She said: “By putting their bags out the night before we come and collect or early in the morning, people think they’re doing us a favour.
“But that’s when these people come around to steal them, so we’d ask that they put them out later on in the morning.
“All of our vans have the BHF magnet on them and the drivers carry ID as well so that people can recognise them.”
She also appealed for anyone who has donations to make to contact the British Heart Foundation in Wrexham direct on 01978 313204.
Audrey Toon, manager of the Oxfam shop on Lord Street, said donations had also been stolen from the back door.
“We used to have trouble all the time with donations being taken from by the back door and homeless people rooting through the bins.
“It used to be a nightmare and sometimes there would be things scattered everywhere.
“It’s got better since we brought the bins inside at night and we put a sign by the door telling people not to leave donations out when we’re closed.”
The British Heart Foundation said it reported 241 incidents of theft of donation bags from doorsteps across the UK in 2011/12.
The Charity Retail Association has carried out research which shows the rise in the number of bogus collections is costing charities £50m a year.
A spokesman for the association said: “Fraudulent charity collections and the theft of charity bags continue to be major problems for charity shops, reducing the income they can raise.
“Charity bag crime is also linked to organised criminal gangs and more serious crime.”
You can report bogus collectors to the Charity Retail Association at www.charityretail.org.uk/theft_bogus_form.html.