Charity textile collections are no longer “a soft target” for organised crime, minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd has said.
At a Charity Clothes Collection Symposium, Hurd backed efforts to tackling textile theft, pledging a “zero-tolerance approach”.
Referring to the police raid on a gang located in Rainham, East London (See MRW story: www.mrw.co.uk/news/8619703.article) Hurd said: “The successful operation should send out a loud and clear message to the criminals involved that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”
He claimed tougher rules and regulations would over-burden charities and commercial collectors, leaving criminal gangs to continue to operate outside the law.
“The only way to crack this problem is by everyone working together in a co-ordinated way. I am also keen that we consider whether the current sanctions for unlicensed collections can be toughened. “
Since the issue of textile theft from illegitimate operators was brought to the attention of parliament by MP Tracey Crouch in 2010, the Association of Police Chief Officers has worked with industry to target organised criminal gangs.
Hurd said in future it will be important to ensure information on textile crime continues to be shared and that the sector is united and communicates consistent messages to the public.
In reference to a recent call from the British Heart Foundation for commercial collectors to be more transparent (See MRW story:https://www.mrw.co.uk/news/8619230.article), he added: “[We need] to continue to drive a wedge between legitimate charity collections and bogus collections, enabling the public to give with confidence. Mixed or confused messages do not help.”
Responding to this point, the Textile Recycling Association said: “We would like to see those factions that put out information which seeks to discredit the fundraising choices of other charities to draw a line and come forward with us in delivering these important objectives.”
Comment: MP Tracey Crouch
I never thought a local man telling me about a fake leaflet posted through his door would lead to me being a parliamentary champion against bogus charity bag collections and textile theft.
In preparation for my debate in Parliament in October last year I was shocked to learn of the sheer scale of theft and fraudulent charity collections across the country and even more disappointed to see the lacklustre response from the enforcement agencies. It was clear that each organisation had other priorities and didn’t see a stolen bag of clothes as worthy of their time or energy. Sadly, not only does each bogus collection take vital funds away from good causes but it fundamentally undermines public confidence in giving to charity.
The roundtable with Charities Minister Nick Hurd earlier this year was definitely a huge leap forward in co-ordinating a central response against this crime and in the year since there has been great progress. The police are taking the issue more seriously, recognising it is an organised crime which potentially raises a lot of money for other crimes.
However more still needs to be done, but it order to do it we as government, agencies, collectors and charities need to work together so the public can give with confidence.