Bid to stop charity shop thieves

CHARITY shops in Ipswich have today joined forces in a bid to battle shoplifters targeting their stores. The Charity Watch scheme has been set up by Susie Ling, manager of the MIND shop, in St Matthews Street, Ipswich after she got fed up with shoplifters stealing from the shop.

CHARITY shops in Ipswich have today joined forces in a bid to battle shoplifters targeting their stores.

The Charity Watch scheme has been set up by Susie Ling, manager of the MIND shop, in St Matthews Street, Ipswich after she got fed up with shoplifters stealing from the shop.

The shop is now linked with Oxfam, Cancer Research, PDSA and YMCA stores, all along St Matthew's Street and Westgate Street, so staff can warn each other when the persistent offenders have come in.

One weekend the problem got so bad that £50 of stock was stolen from the MIND shop in one go.

The scheme is similar to the existing Shop Watch scheme which runs in town, with the larger shops getting tip-offs from each others' security guards.

However the charity shops set up their own scheme because they cannot afford to participate in Shop Watch.

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Susie Ling said: "It is absolutely sickening that people would steal from charity shops but we have around ten regulars who visit each of the stores.

"Each time we approach one of these people we put ourselves in a vulnerable position but the charity has got to come first.

"I am trying to raise money and awareness for this charity and each time people steal from the shop it is money out of the till.

"If we had the cash to join the Shop Watch scheme we would but obviously being a voluntary run charity shop we cannot afford it.

"However I do feel we could be included on the rounds of who the security officers contact when shoplifters are in town."

Miss Ling said although the police help out there is little they can do unless they get to the store while the offender is still there.

She feels the shops are picked on because they are often run by elderly volunteers who are seen as easy targets by shoplifters.

She said: "On one occasion a woman came in and put on one of our coats and picked up a handbag and walked out of the shop.

"The same woman came back another day and simply opened the door and stole the coat off the mannequin in the window."

Sarah Etheridge, sales assistant at the PDSA shop in Westgate Street, said: "We got involved in the scheme because we wanted to be aware when these people were coming near to the store so we could get more assistants walking around the floor keeping watch."

Inspector Bruce Robinson, of Suffolk police, said community support officers and police officers already had good communication with these shops.

He said: "We support any reasonable crime reduction activity in the town centre which gives due consideration to data protection legislation to the rights of people.

"We have researched this area in the last three months and found the problem of shoplifting is not any worse than other areas in the town."

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