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Textile thieves stealing tones from charity: North Kildare towns targeted

Liffey Champion

Gangs of thieves have resorted to using cutting equipment to break into clothing banks dotted across north Kildare. Tones of textiles are being lost each week by clothing charity Liberties recycling Training and Development as it battles against what it believes are highly organized gangs making a living off the back of selling clothing intended for use in developing nations.

The Dublin based charity operates clothing banks in Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth, Kilcock, Straffan and Clane. Project Manager Naill Morris revealed this week that while the charity's clothing banks are being targeted across Leinster, they are being particularly badly hit in county Kildare.

“We don't know if one gang or a couple of gangs but they are doing significant damage” Mr. Morris said. “We have been trying everything to stop it”.

And not only is the charity counting the cost of lost clothing but also of the cost of repairs arising out of banks being damaged during break-ins.

“They are going at banks with cutting equipment, cutting holes in the side of the drums” added Mr. Morris. “There are times we would go to collect clothes and they are empty. They could be targeting the same bank two or three times per week.”

“We try to empty them as frequently as we can so there is less for them and we are emptying some on a daily basis.”

But Mr. Morris said the gangs are complicating things further by interfering with locks so not even the charity can gain access legitimately. “It could take us two days to have the bank repaired and they let the clothes build up and rob them before we get the chance (to clear them). They are selling the clothes in eastern Europe and car boot sales, taking what they want and dumping the rest”.

“It is terrible because people are going to be wary of using clothes banks: it is a constant battle”. In north Dublin the Fire Brigade were called to rescue one man after he got stuck in a recycling bank while trying to rob it. The following week he was arrested attempting to break into the same bank.

Mr. Morris estimated the charity could be losing four to five tones of cloths a week but admits it is difficult to give a more accurate figure.

“It is really hard to know because if they have been emptied they might not have done any damage. But it is in the tones as opposed to the kilos.”

He said the charity has noticed in the last few weeks that the amount being deposited in Maynooth has fallen, indicating that the gangs are now operating there again. “They are back and they are persistent” he added.

Details of the measures the difficulties facing the charity emerged at Kilcock District Court persuaded a littering prosecution. According to local authority litter warden, Peter Mahony, the charity has had to deal with an upsurge in the theft of clothes from recycling banks in recent times.

Mr. O'Mahoney was speaking as he gave evidence against Junca Serghel of Pomaroy Park in Rathangan who failed to appear on a littering charge. Serghel was ordered to pay full costs of €75 to Kildare County Council and fined the maximum €3,000 as Judge Desmond Zaidan handed down a conviction.

Referring to Serghel case, Mr. Mahony said a 1996 Opel Vectra registered to the defendant pulled up at the clothes bank in the Kildare County Council car park in Maynooth at 1am of 9th September last year.

CCTV During the incident, which was captured on CCTV, Serghel and his passenger approached the bank before the passenger removed his trousers and discarded them at the side of the bank. Fortunately he was wearing another pair, Mr. Mahoney said. The passenger then removed one bag of clothes from the bank, which he left to one side.

Prevented from gaining unrestricted access to the bank by the iron bar across the front, the man took a hacksaw from the car and attempted to break the bar in two before being disturbed.

Mr. Mahony said in normal cases, the smaller of the group gets into the bank and empties it completely before fleeing with the contents. “it is not the first time it happened and I believe the charity is dealing with it in a certain manner” said Mr. Mahoney. “They have had it happen at a number of banks across the county”.

Labeling the actions of those involved as 'disgraceful behavior', Judge Zaidan encouraged Kildare County Council to start leasing more closely with gardai and pass on whatever information it may have on similar incidents.

“It is a criminal offence what they are doing” the Judge said. “If there are other people like that out there, the charities are losing out”.

A textiles recycling project, Liberties Recycling Training and Development provides people affected by drug use with stability, work experience and the confidence needed to move into mainstream employment or further education.

  • About us

  • Liberty Recycling is a clothes recycling social enterprise and charity that provides people affected by drug and alcohol use with the stability, work experience, skills and confidence needed to move into mainstream employment, training and education, all within a supportive work environment.

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