THE theft of clothing from bring banks is an increasing and serious problem, said Tullamore’s Garda Inspector.
Inspector Kieran Keyes made the comment at Tullamore District Court as he prosecuted Dimitru Pirvu (24), Willsbrook Drive, Lucan for theft and criminal damage at a bring bank on the Daingean Road, Tullamore on March 4.
Garda Aidan Ryan and Elaine Conlon had arrested a man there who was bagging clothes in the back of a van and during questioning he expressed concern for his friend who was still in the container.
Mr Pirvu was then seen climbing out of a Breast Cancer Ireland clothes bank by the Gardaí who returned to the scene, having been initially called there by a concerned citizen.
Mr Pirvu said he had been asleep in the van when Gardaí arrived and denied any involvement in the offences.
He said he’d been drinking earlier and had gone to the canal line because he’d been feeling unwell.
The only reason he was near the bring bank was to dispose of two beer bottles, he explained.
However Judge Catherine Staines found him guilty of the theft and criminal damage and convicting Mr Pirvu, she described stealing “clothes donated to charity for a good cause” as “the lowest of the low.”
She described the operation as “professional” and jailed Mr Pirvu for a total of eight months, four months for each offence.
Aidan Kenny is Business Development Manager with Textile Recycling Ireland, which operates the bring bank in Tullamore for Offaly County Council and gives a percentage of its profits to the breast cancer charity.
The company operates over a thousand clothes banks across Ireland and after the hearing Mr Kenny said thieves are “taking advantage of the good charitable deeds of Irish people.”
Thieves jam locks, meaning staff can’t get access to banks until they are repaired, leaving thieves more time to access clothes while donations mount.
The cost of maintaining banks has increased significantly, he said, but was unable to quantify the financial cost of the thefts to charities.
“I can’t put a figure on it, but the money helps them a lot each year, and also the clothes are going to people in Africa and Eastern Europe where people are the poorest of the poor,” he said.
“The charities are losing out, the charity shops are losing out,” he said, adding that charities are in discussions about how best to manage the problem and have contacted senior Gardaí.
Prosecutions are difficult as Gardaí must catch thieves in the act, and most offences happen at night at bring banks in car parks and quiet locations, he said, urging the public to report suspicious activities.