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Heartless thieves steal from West Hampstead charity shops

PUBLISHED: 16:01 01 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:21 07 September 2010

Peter Smith and Sarah Williams at the Cancer Research shop in West Hampstead

Peter Smith and Sarah Williams at the Cancer Research shop in West Hampstead

Shoplifting from charity shops in West Hampstead is spiralling out of control, according to shop managers. Thieves are stealing up to 30 items a day from some of the shops which rely on donations from the public to raise cash for worthy causes. They are

Shoplifting from charity shops in West Hampstead is spiralling out of control, according to shop managers.

Thieves are stealing up to 30 items a day from some of the shops which rely on donations from the public to raise cash for worthy causes.

They are stealing anything from clothes and shoes to books and bras.

The volunteer shop staff are at their wits end, and blame the credit crunch for the recent increase in thefts.

"Every day around 20 to 30 items are nicked. People steal stuff from inside the shop and the bags people leave outside," said Sarah Williams, manager of the Cancer Research shop in West End Lane.

"All sorts of types of people steal - it is hard to tell, sometimes they are respectable looking people in suits.

"Everything gets nicked but we cannot lock everything away or there would be nothing left to sell.

"It is very frustrating, everyone is working really hard putting the stuff out and when you know you have something good you want to put it out but so often it gets stolen.

"We are angry and we are always fretting about it. It is a constant problem.

"It has been going on a long time but it has got a lot worse recently especially with the credit crunch."

Ms Williams said a telltale sign that something has been snatched is an empty hanger on a rail or in the changing rooms. And she said even the cafe next door has found hangers left in the toilets, where people put on what they have stolen.

"We cannot afford CCTV cameras so we never have any proof. We are always in the shop looking around and suspicious of people nowadays," she said.

"All the charity shops here suffer, it is a huge problem. I do not see this getting any better soon and I think the credit crunch is going to make it worse."

The nearby Oxfam shop has also suffered the same trend of thefts.

Manager Angela Palmieri said: "They mostly steal shoes, I don't know why. It has got a lot worse in the last couple of months.

"They try on clothes and just walk out with the stuff - normally the best and most expensive items.

"It is bad because now we are looking around so much more than before - they are always trying to steal.

"I have seen it many times and they are stealing stuff from a charity - it is all donations people have given.

"We are working for free and we get quite angry about this kind of stealing because it is for charity.

"We really get upset because they steal a lot of stuff and it is not nice. It shows a total lack of respect for the charity and for the people who have donated to us.

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