Ruthless crooks are leaving charities thousands of pounds out of pocket by raiding collection bins to cash in on the booming textiles market.
The value of reusable clothes has rocketed from four pence per kilogram to 80 pence in the past five years - and organised gangs are now travelling the country to collect as much as they can, and by any means necessary.
A large metal clothing bin in Polmont used to raise cash for the British Heart Foundation was forced open and emptied by devious thieves on December 30, who were so desperate to continue plundering its contents they secured it with their own padlock.
The shock discovery was made by Duncan Macdonald and Alan Hunter, who collect donations on behalf of the charity.
Duncan (58) said: “It is not only clothing banks that these gangs steal from, but also donated goods which are left on doorsteps for charity collections.
“This is a countrywide problem which is getting bigger and is depriving charities of vital research money.”
The heavy steel collection bin, located at the back of the Co-operative store in Greenpark Drive, Polmont, had been part-opened using a cutting device.
According to the charity, it’s not the first time that crooks have targeted one of their collection bins.
Despite reporting the matter to the police, volunteers were dismayed the following day when they discovered the thieves had returned to complete the job - stealing dozens of items of potentially valuable clothing.
To make matters worse, the crooks had also attached their own padlock to the bin, allowing them to return to steal more at their leisure.
Duncan added: “The steel shroud had been opened with a grinder or similar tool, and the heavy duty safety padlocks had been drilled out.
“It is terrible what these people are doing.”
That opinion was backed up in the last update on local policing given to Falkirk Council in October.
The report by David Flynn, commander of the Forth Valley Division, stated that “bogus collection and theft of ‘charity’ clothing” remained one of a number of “longer-term threats” that local police would continue to prioritise.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said officers were investigating the break-in.
He said: “Police in Polmont are appealing for witnesses following the theft of clothing from a clothes bank.
“The incident took place between Monday, December 23, and Monday, December 30. An unknown amount of clothing was stolen.
“Anyone with any information should contact Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers, in confidence and complete anonymity if you wish, on 0800 555 111.”