Charity shops in Bury St Edmunds are being targeted by thieves in a widespread spate of shoplifting.
The charities say thieves see them as easy targets as their shops do not have the sophisticated anti-theft devices used by commercial retailers,
On one occasion, shoes were taken from a charity shop and the thief replaced them with their own old shoes.
Julia Wigley, of the Cancer Reasearch UK shop in Abbeygate Street, is hoping a local company might be prepared to donate a CCTV system to help combat the thieves.
Mrs Wigley said last week alone the shop lost £200 worth of stock, including a £50 pair of shoes.
“The shoes were gone in the time it took to deal with a customer,” she said. “I just felt like shutting the door and saying ‘forget this, I’ve had enough’. My volunteers and I work very hard to raise funds, our customers are great and our donors are exceptional.
“How can people steal from a charity shop?”
She said they had fallen victim to a ‘gang’ of people who arrived with children and were ‘loud and distracting’. She believes they were responsible for taking a whole rack of children’s clothes from the charity’s Cornhill store.
Susanne Dickson, St Nicholas Hospice Care’s retail co-ordinator, said shoplifting was a problem at all their stores in Bury, Mildenhall, Thetford, Sudbury, Haverhill and Newmarket.
She said: “Bury does have more of a problem, but it is our biggest shop.
“They are depriving the charity of much-needed funds to do the work we do for the local community. The hospice needs £11,000 a day.”
Though it is easier for staff and volunteers to keep watch in a small store, even the little Oxfam shop in Bury’s Brentgovel Street has fallen victim. Long-serving volunteer Celia Hannaford said: “In the past they’ve tried on a pair of shoes and put their old ones on the shelf, then walked out.
“They probably think we’re an easy touch.”