The problem of organised criminals stealing textile collections from outside homes is getting much worse, according to UK charities.
Charity Clothes Aid managing director Michael Lomotey told MRW: We are definitely seeing more theft of collections and we need more help from the authorities and police.
Organised crime groups are involved and, yes, we realise that the police have to concentrate on crime areas such as terrorism and gun crime. However, we are still suffering and we are asking them to help us tackle organised crime groups who are stealing collections across the country.
Lomotey said that organised groups come in vans to steal door-to-door collections outside houses before the legitimate charity picks it up. He said that they then transport the donations to Eastern Europe where they are sold onto traders.
There is a growing demand from Eastern Europe for second hand textiles and traders can get high prices for selling textiles on to these markets.
Lomotey said that charities needed more support and that those who were caught stealing should be punished and have their assets seized: The British public is not going to accept people stealing from charities.
Some of our drivers have even been bribed for tonnage. I think one well known charity was offered £10,000 for a set of keys to their textile banks but refused to give them over.
Clothes Aid has 50 tonnes of clothing a week stolen from their door-to-door collections.
We have even seen a newspaper for Lithuanian ex-pats that says in its classified section that if you see where charity collection bags are based tell us and we can give you £25 for it if you call a certain number.
The British Heart Foundation charity is running an awareness campaign to urge the public to be vigilant of thieves and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police.
BHF shops division chief executive Ken Blair said that there has been an increase in theft of charity clothing donations. He said: Last year we had two calls a week reporting theft from doorsteps, this year it has increased by five to 10 calls a week. We estimate that unreported thefts could make it twenty times as much. That equals 1,000 metric tonnes of donated clothes per year which will cost charity shops £2.5 million per year in donations.
They are robbing people with heart conditions of a better quality of life.
Textile Recycling Association national liaison manager Alan Wheeler said: The problem of theft from door-to-door collections is big. Door-to-door collections of clothing and textiles by our members is actually the most efficient collection method and raises substantial sums of money for charities. The annual loss of revenue to charities and their collection partners runs into millions of pounds.
The industry is taking a serious look at how the problems can be resolved but we need the assistance of the Government, the police and Serious Organised Crime Agency.
As we are the industry body which represents reputable textile collectors, we look forward to continuing our work with these bodies to tackle the problem of theft from clothing collections.