Police slammed over charity bag theftsClothes Aid says officers not doing enough

23 November 2007

A spread of collection leaflets

Charity bag collector Clothes Aid has criticised police for the lack of action over the continuing theft of bags from doorsteps.

Which? reported in August on the increasing number of thefts, and concern that police and other authorities were not doing enough to tackle the problem.

In an effort to help track down gangs stealing charity bags, Which? put an electronic tracking device inside a bag of clothes that pinpointed a depot in Barking where stolen bags were known to have been handled.

Our researcher went to the depot with a Clothes Aid representative, who identified clothes bags it uses in collections for London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, among others.

Clothing donations

Clothes Aid estimates that it loses 50 tonnes of clothing donations a week to this crime.

But when Clothes Aid wrote to Barking and Dagenham police, alerting it to the activity, the charity collector was told that such crime was not deemed a police priority so resources were not available to tackle it.

Michael Lomotey of Clothes Aid said: ‘This is very frustrating. We know who the thieves are and we know where they're storing the stolen bags, but nothing is being done about it.’

When we contacted Barking and Dagenham police, it confirmed that it wasn't prioritising this crime but said it would offer charities advice on preventing doorstep theft.

Charity checklist

To ensure your charity bags reach the right people:

  • check whether the collection is for a UK-registered charity. Confirm its number with the Charity Commission or call 0845 300 0218
  • remember charities need a licence to collect. Check with either your council or police service in England and Wales, or the police in Northern Ireland. In Scotland contact the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator or call 01382 220446
  • if a leaflet doesn't look or seem right, it probably isn't – check for addresses and landline numbers. Commercial collection companies don’t require licences but company names can be checked at Companies House or by calling 0870 333 3636
  • remember that not all legitimate collection companies have marked vans.If you're suspicious, note the registration number and contact the local police or Consumer Direct on 0845 404 0506
  • ask for ID and be wary of any that looks photocopied or homemade – compare details with the organisation’s leaflet. Genuine fundraisers should be happy to answer questions and won't mind being checked out. Alternatively, make an appointment for a collection or deliver direct to charity shops.