Staff and volunteers at Keech Hospice Care are devastated after three of their Dunstable and Luton shops were broken into in the last week – the eighth time the charity has been hit in the past 10 months.
Burglars smashed their way in to the Keech Hospice Care stores in Katherine Drive, Dunstable (July 10), Sundon Park, Luton (July 12) and Birdsfoot Lane, Luton, on Monday (July 16).
In each case extensive damage was caused and cash taken.
Angela Burgess, head of retail at Keech Hospice Care, said that the break-ins since October have cost almost £11,000 and left shop staff and volunteers shaken and upset.
She said: “That money could have paid for the equivalent of 344 hours of nursing care on our in-patient unit.
“All the funds we receive are vital for us to continue our work which is why it is so heart-breaking that someone felt the need to do it.
“But it’s not just the financial impact of these burglaries that hurts, it’s the emotional impact as well.
“Our staff and volunteers are like a family – to them this feels like someone has broken into their own homes.”
After each of the seven break-ins the charity has increased its security measures as much as possible, but sadly this hasn’t stopped those determined to get in.
And it’s not the first time the charity’s stores in Dunstable have been hit.
The Gazette reported that its Ashton Square shop was broken into between April 21 - 23 via the back door, the offenders “ripping out the safe” and then stealing the charity collection tin, as recorded by Bedfordshire Police.
Angela added: “We do everything within our power to make sure our shops are as safe and secure as possible. The majority of the hospice’s 32 charity shops across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes have metal shutters but these cost a lot of money and as a local charity it’s not something which is easy for us to do.”
It is believed installing metal shutters at the shops affected could cost the hospice thousands of pounds – money it cannot afford to pay as it is needed to ensure adults and children facing a terminal or life-limiting illness receive care and support.
Liz Searle, chief executive officer at Keech Hospice Care, said that the hospice feels its shops are deliberately being targeted by thieves.
She stated: “We now feel that after a series of burglaries that Keech’s shops are being targeted.
“It saddens us deeply that someone could do such a thing to their local hospice – which exists only to care for seriously ill adults and children at a time in their lives when they need it most.
“Those responsible must have been very desperate.
“As a charity, around 70 per cent of our funding for our care services comes from our community and supporters to help raise the £5.7 million we need every year to care for adults in Luton and south Bedfordshire and children in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes with terminal and life-limiting illnesses.
“It’s not just us hurting from these traumatic events, it affects our whole community who continue to raise money for us year in, year out.”
A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman, said: “We have received reports about a series of break-ins at Keech Hospice Care charity shops in Luton and Dunstable over the past week.
“We were called just before 7.30am on Tuesday (July 11) to the shop in Katherine Drive, Dunstable. The bottom panel of the glass door had been smashed and a laptop and a small safe containing £700 of takings have been reported missing.
“On Friday (July 13) we were called just before 5.45am to the shop in Sundon Park Parade, Luton. The glass of the front door had been smashed and the safe was reported missing.
“We were called on Tuesday just after 10.45am to the shop in Birdsfoot Lane, Luton. The offenders gained access by smashing the lower panel of the front door and the safe was reported missing.
“If anyone has any information about any of the break-ins, you can report it via our online reporting tool or by calling us on 101. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.”