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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Burglars target thrift store lot

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

The St. Vincent de Paul Society property yard is littered with possessions as varied as dolls and downhill skis, items once cherished by proud owners and now left as donations.

But just beyond a virtual field of old aluminum walkers and a bin packed with crutches, burglars have been breaking through a fence about once a week to take castoffs from the lot at 2901 E. Trent Ave.

“I don’t see it. Why us?” asked James Cowan, supervisor and dock foreman at the thrift store. “It’s crazy that they would steal from us.”

In an effort to deter criminals, St. Vincent officials had their crew string razor wire over the fence.

The razor wire hasn’t worked, said Randy Horton, a maintenance worker and mechanic, who has spent a lot of time lately fixing the fence.

“I’ve fixed one spot in the fence three times in the one month I’ve been here,” Horton said. “I don’t understand it. We are trying to help people.”

Cowan said the crews show up for work and find the razor wire pushed down, as if someone draped a blanket or comforter to get over. “It’s hard to tell a lot of times. I’d say someone is breaking in at least once a week.”

Burglars recently took $2,300 worth of lumber, plus computers and just about anything else they could carry.

Horton wasn’t even finished installing a radio in one of the center’s seven trucks before the radio was stolen. “We don’t even lock the rigs up, because they will break the windows,” he said.

Cowan said he arrived one morning and found a hole in the fence and a box of goods left next to the hole. “The box they left behind was cooking tins and a couple pairs of shoes, nothing you would ever want to go to jail over,” he said. “I think it’s mostly grab and run.”

Workers at St. Vincent de Paul Society call Spokane police about the burglaries. Sometimes officers come out to look.

“They come out but say there isn’t much they can do,” Cowan said of the officers. “They can’t get fingerprints.”

What’s more, four of the seven trucks used to pick up donations are out of service. That prevents staff from picking up donations.

“We can lose potential customers and donations” when the trucks don’t run, Cowan said. “It looks bad for us when we can’t get there.”

As a result, more people are coming after hours and dumping donations outside the fence. Most of the night deposits are garbage, including rotten clothes and furniture.

“I don’t think a lot of them can read, apparently,” Horton said, pointing to the signs that say “No Dumping.”

Each day the center receives 40-50 car- and truck-loads of donations.

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