Thieves target Lake Country thrift stores over Christmas break

Images have been released of the suspects

Thrift shop volunteers in Lake Country are disheartened after recent thefts over the holidays left them with little donations.

Barb Ross, a volunteer at Lake Country Food Bank Thrift, said thefts have been ongoing from the store’s donation pile for the last few months.

She said the number of donations is usually higher around Christmas time, since people are donating their old items, but this year the store had only a few bags because of thieves that took donations while the store was closed for the holidays.

“It’s very discouraging,” she said, adding the store is run by volunteers, and after operating costs, proceeds are donated to the food bank.

RELATED: Vehicle stolen after break-in at Lake Country home

People need to learn to only drop off donations during operating hours, she said. While the odd thing has been taken over the past few years, the store had two donations from the Christmas holidays when it was closed for two weeks.

“They’re taking the big totes, we’ve left them out all the years we’ve used them,” Ross said.

She said a few people have been caught on camera, including a couple with a bike trailer.

The thefts could affect the store’s bottom line, as it’s now shorter on wares, she said.

The food bank thrift store isn’t the only one that’s been hit.

Over the last year, thefts have been frequent at the Winfield United Church Thrift Shop.

RELATED: Thief steals bike in Kelowna, then van in Lake Country

“We now have surveillance video, it makes it very evident,” said volunteer Karen Gibbons.

After installing a camera in December, the volunteers suspected in the last while thefts have been getting worse.

As with Lake Country Food Bank Thrift, donations left outside of the thrift store’s operating hours have been stolen.

“We had a two-week break and the comments were ‘there’s only one little bag dropped off, the customers have been great and reading the signs’ and then we look at the surveillance and there were lots of drops, and they’ve pilled everything and taken it all.”

Photos and videos of the suspects have been sent to the Lake Country police.

The thrift store is also run by volunteers.

“It’s very frustrating because we think that our donors are expecting that we’re actually getting these donations and that from there. We donate thousands of dollars to the Boys and Girls Club, the food bank… we do donate outside of the church,” Gibbons said.

“We work hard, we’ve got the reputation for having a clean shop, but our housewares are a little empty and I suspect they’ve been intercepted.”

According to Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, communications officer with the Kelowna RCMP, Lake Country has experienced an increase in property crime in December compared to the same time last year.

Residential break and enters have increased from one incident in 2017, to three in 2018, and from two thefts from a vehicle in 2017 compared to five in 2018.

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