CHCA Thrift store hit with backalley theft, vandalism

CHCA asking public to drop off donations during store hours instead of after-hours bin

The Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift in downtown Cranbrook is facing a problem after hours in the alley behind its store front on 8th Avenue South.

Vandalism and the pilfering of donated goods from the thrift store’s donation bin are on the increase, and the CHCA is asking donors to drop off their items in person, at least for the time being.

Melanie Dodgson and Odette Rouse with the CHCA spoke to the Townsman about what’s happening. It’s more than just a case of someone in need, or someone who’s homeless, looking for extra clothing in cold weather. It appears items are being stolen out of the bin for resale in some cases, and by various people, singly or in groups, of all ages, at any time of day, sometimes quite brazenly.

“Someone even pulled up with a car,” Rouse said. “A white car with Alberta plates. They filled the car up.”

“Some of these could be people in need, and we’ve confronted them sometimes, to advise them of the resources that are available. But others are just there to steal and resell.”

The situation has escalated to the point where people are now breaking the locks to the donation bins, climbing in, taking the bags of clothes out and dragging them behind a bin in a nearby parking lot, out of sight of the street and alley. Once there, they go through the bags, taking the items they want — likely for resale, Rouse said — and leaving the rest.

But these actions have a further ugly, antisocial element. The pilferers have taken to relieving themselves on the ripped bags and items left behind, turning them into garbage.

The bins in the alley have also been spray painted and otherwise vandalized.

“It’s creating problems for all the businesses in the area,” Dodgson said.

Dodgson added that while the RCMP has been advised of this on-going situation, and asked to up their patrolling and visibility in the area, there is not much else that can be done.

The CHCA is also concerned with the volunteers who staff the thrift store, who are generally seniors. “What if one of our members gets hurt?” Rouse said. “We will press charges if we can.”

The CHCA Thrift Store relies on donations to keep its shelves stocked. Dodgson is asking the public to avoid dropping off donations after hours in light of this situation, and rather drop off the donations during store hours, at the back door of the thrift store, 9 am to 3 pm on Mondays, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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