Thieves stealing Salvation Army donations

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 13, 2010

NATCHEZ — Donations are disappearing, but Salvation Army representatives aren’t sure the items are going to the people who need them.

Suzzette McMillan, divisional service extension field representative for Mississippi and Louisiana, said it has become commonplace for Salvation Army store employees to arrive at work greeted by donations that appear to have been picked through and tossed aside by apparent thieves.

“The ongoing problem is people are stealing donations after hours and on weekends,” McMillan said. “Nine times out of 10, it seems they are going through the things that have been dropped off and pulling out the good stuff, leaving us with little to put in the store.”

McMillan said it is convenient for donators to drop items in or around the outdoor donation box, but she would encourage anyone wanting to donate items to make sure they do so during regular business hours, between 10 a.m and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

While the most prevalent activity seems to involve stolen donations, McMillan said the stores central air conditioning unit was stolen approximately three weeks ago, leaving the store to bake in May heat.

“We are in the process of being able to replace the unit, but not having one in the store now makes working hard,” she said. “I was working to help a fire victim yesterday in the store, and it was almost unbearable.”

McMillan said because the donations are outside, there is no good way to stop people from stealing donations.

“If you don’t catch them in the act, there is no way to prove it because it is their word against yours,” she said. “We have had employees who come by on the weekends and take items inside, but they can’t be expected to do that all the time on their days off.”

Natchez Police Lt. Craig Godbold said other than patrolling the area, there is little the police department can do.

“Other than catching them red handed or something like that, we aren’t able to do much,” he said. “And even if you catch them, its hard to put a value on the donations.

“The best things is for people to make sure they can make donations during business hours so they aren’t left sitting in the open.”