Undercover surveillance by South Australia's environmental watchdog reveals the extent of “deliberate and calculated” after-hours scavenging of donated goods left outside charity stores. Source: The Advertiser.
The Environment Protection Authority South Australia ran the covert operation in response to concerns over escalating and widespread scavenging raised by the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations.
The surveillance footage shows people tearing open and emptying bags of donated items left outside an unnamed metropolitan Adelaide charity store, taking what they want before scattering the rest on the ground.
“Deliberate and calculated theft was taking place, with people coming prepared with torches to search through and locate donated items to steal, in some cases loading them into cars that were already full of what appeared to be bags of donations from other charity stores,” EPA investigations manager Stephen Barry said.
EPA officers recorded up to 25 visits from 6pm to midnight over three nights at the store in December last year and in April.
The EPA ran multiple undercover operations to understand the scope of the issue.
Half of those visitors were donating goods after hours, mostly bagged clothing, but the remaining half – both in a steady stream of vehicles and on foot – were observed stealing.
In a united front, SA charities – including the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society, Animal Welfare League and RSPCA, are urging the public to donate goods during store hours and asking those in need to seek assistance from available support services.
“This behaviour (of scavenging) exploits the generosity of donors and organisations that are doing all they can to help people in need,” St Vincent de Paul Society South Australia chief David Wark said.
“Leaving an absolute mess is really frustrating because our volunteers have to clean it up – so please, please donate during business hours and come inside for help if you need it, but don’t steal from us.”