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Social Issues
Ottawa Charity Sets Up Sting Operation, Uses GPS To Catch Donation Bin Thieves
June 18, 2013
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A clothing donation bin in Ottawa, placed by a non-charitable organization (Photo: CBC News)

@RobTCase Tweeted us this story: It doesn't get much lower than stealing an entire clothing donation bin from a registered charity - but that's exactly what thieves in Ottawa have been doing.

One target of the thefts, the Canadian Community Support Foundation (CCSF), decided to do something about it: they placed GPS trackers inside the donation bins so they could see where they were being taken after the thefts.

Daniela Siggia, the executive director of the foundation, told Strombo.com that thefts of donation bin have increased in recent months.

"It has occurred in previous years in the industry on a minor scale. It has escalated to an alarming degree in the last 6 months," Siggia wrote in an email.

The organization took matters into their own hands, using pieces of wood to secure GPS units inside the bins.

They watched one theft take place in real time on an iPad, following the bin from its original location to a storage facility elsewhere in Ottawa.

On June 13, the police made an arrest in connection with the case at a storage yard in the east end, according to a CCSF press release.

Siggia told Strombo.com that Ottawa is only the beginning.

"Ottawa was the pilot sting operation, and we are rolling out various sting operations in all areas we are having issues," she said.

Part of the reason for the sting operation is a lack of law enforcement on the issue.

Siggia says many city councils are willing to pass regulations, but "they often don't offer increased resources for bylaw enforcement to actually deal with the problem."

She praises Councillor Allan Hubley in Ottawa for his active roll in enforcing regulations, but suggests that in other jurisdictions, "pirate bin operators are running wild making a fortune by avoiding things like permissions and licensing requirements, as well as stealing or hijacking bins."

Clothing bin thefts aren't unusual. Criminals steal the bins so they can repaint them and place them elsewhere to trick the public into giving them clothes, which they then resell.

The City of Ottawa recently adopted a bylaw forcing the owners of clothing bins to get permission from the property owner before placing a bin.

The bylaw also requires operators to post their name, address and the purpose of their clothing collection.

CBC News reported on the new bylaw, and the state of clothing donations in Ottawa, earlier this month. Check out that report below:



The donation business brings in a lot of money - an estimated $100 million in Ontario alone - and competition and theft are a common problem.

A lot of the clothing that's collected by for-profit companies gets sold for about 25 cents a pound and shipped overseas, where it's used in developing countries or resold as rags.

If you want to avoid giving your old clothing to thieves or a company that isn't a registered charity, Siggia has some advice.

"A real registered charity will display their Revenue Canada #001 on the bin. You should check Revenue Canada's Charity list to ensure it is in fact an active registered charity," she suggests.

And you can do a little detective work of your own: "Check out the charity website, and see if they are actually making a positive difference."

She also has a message to anyone who plans on donating clothes: don't just give the good stuff.

"We accept donations in any condition. Even a stray sock with holes in it!" she says. "Any donation that is no longer wearable is recycled into upholstery & cleaning rags."

"Please consider donating ALL your textile waste, not just the good stuff, although we are very grateful for that especially. Textiles do not belong in landfills!"

Via The Ottawa Sun

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