Thrift store thefts frustrate staff, ask for community help

LAKE COUNTY — A recent rash of thefts at Baldwin’s Community Thrift Store has volunteers at the facility seeing red, and calling on local citizens to help put a stop to the practice. Lee Schwartz, manager at the popular second-hand shop, which is located on 10th Street in the north of town near St. Ann’s/St. Ignatius Church, reports that a person or persons unknown has been digging through donated items left in the drop-off bin at the rear of the building.

“In the last few weeks there have been at least two incidents,” says Schwartz. “We had received a phone call from a lady who had donated six bags full of clothes and shoes – very nice items – but when we looked in the bin we saw that someone had taken them out of the bags and rooted through them and generally made a mess. Then another donation came in, but when the donor returned two hours later to drop off some more things, she found the garments strewn all over the place.”

The staff at the thrift store point out that the thefts “don’t hurt us — they hurt the community. When people steal our clothes, that leaves fewer things for our honest customers. And when clothes are thrown around outside, they can get wet or dirty, and then we can’t use them at all.” Garments that are seriously damaged, filthy or mildewed become unusable and have to be discarded.

The Community Thrift Store is one of a number of places around Baldwin that offer residents great bargains on gently used clothes, and in these tough economic times. Many people these days find the prices at regular retail stores far in excess of their budgets, but at the thrift stores shoppers can find, for example, jeans in good condition for under $5, and very good shirts and sweaters sometimes for as little at $2. Many local residents cruise these shops just for the fun of finding something surprisingly special.

“Whoever is doing this stealing is committing a crime,” Schwartz observes. “Theft, vandalism, malicious destruction of property — it’s against the law, and in the future all such incidents will be reported.” She professes to be mystified as to why anybody would steal from the thrift store. “Maybe it’s some kind of a thrill,” she says, “but it’s a major annoyance for us. That’s why we prefer to have people drop off donations when we are open, rather than leaving clothes and other items in the after-hours drop-off bin.”

Anyone with information regarding the thefts at the Thrift Center is asked to report them at (231) 745-2551.