Coldhearted crooks who caused thousands of pounds worth of damage when they broke in to four charity shops in the same night are being hunted by police.
Over the course of Sunday night, the High Street’s Cancer Research, Hospice of St Francis and Oxfam charity stores were all targeted, along with Barnardos on Lower Kings Road.
In each case, either small amounts of cash or nothing at all was swiped by the thieves, though entry methods through rear doors and windows have left devastating costs to the charities.
Officers investigating the offences say the timings and similar methods of attack used in each instance suggest the crimes are linked – with the Dacorum safer neighbourhood team’s Insp George Holland branding the operation as ‘despicable’.
He said: “These crimes are particularly despicable as they will create multiple victims – not only the charities themselves but the people, who are often vulnerable, they aim to help as vital funds have been stolen.
“My officers will be investigating the incidents and offering further crime prevention advice to the charities affected. I would urge anyone with any information about these burglaries to contact my officers as soon as possible.
“Any amount of information could prove useful to the investigation so please do get in touch if you remember seeing anyone or anything suspicious around the time of the burglaries.”
Jackie Eeles, store manager at the Cancer Research branch, said the shop was also targeted less than a fortnight earlier, when £550 was stolen and the shop’s safe damaged. This time round, the callous individuals made off with a measly £50, but also nabbed the brand new safe as well as causing up to £3,000 in costs to repair the door, replace the safe and change the locks yet again.
She said: “It takes an awful lot for us to get that amount in the shop, so this will mean less money going into the research, which at the end of the day is what we are all here for.
“They are not going to get the better of us, we are a charity and we will win over them.
They are not going to get the better of us, we are a charity and we will win over them.Jackie Eeles, Cancer Research shop manager
“It’s a nasty, nasty thing to do – it’s beyond belief that someone could do this to anybody, let alone a charity.”
At the Hospice of St Francis’ Love to Give shop, damage to the back window and a door was incurred, but nothing was taken thanks to security measures already in place in the unit.
The Berkhamsted-based Hospice’s trading and development manager Lin Underwood said: “We’re very disappointed that thieves would target charity shops, particularly a shop belonging to a local Hospice, which does so much for the community.”
Oxfam’s area manager for Berkhamsted Natacha Terrot added: “This incident can be so dispiriting for all our volunteers who give their time and energy for free, but also for all of those who support us with donations or their custom.
“Right now Oxfam is working with families facing disaster in 31 countries in the world. Every penny we can raise counts, now more than ever.”
She added that the £100 stolen from the shop during Sunday’s break-in could have been used to buy 40 masks for health workers dealing with the Ebola emergency in Sierra Leone. She said: “Imagine how many could have benefitted from the life saving cash that we will now instead have to use to repair the shop.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting the crime reference D2/15/165.