BUSINESSES in Taunton say they are disgusted and frustrated following a spate of charity tin thefts around the town.

Two businesses have suffered break-ins in the past week where the raiders have made off with charity tins.

Police say there have been a string of other thefts and have branded the crimes as “heinous”.

Laing and Lewis gift shop, in St James’ Street, was broken into at around midnight last Thursday (May 8) and thieves made off with a St Margaret’s Hospice collection tin.

Olivia Polledri, who works at Laing and Lewis, said: “They smashed the door and took absolutely nothing else from our shop besides the charity tin. It’s really frustrating.

“I’m so angry that they took the tin. If they took something from our stock it wouldn’t be as bad because we’re insured. But because it’s a charity tin there’s no chance of us getting it back. We might not have a tin in the shop anymore because it’s too much trouble.”

A spokesman for St Margaret’s Hospice said: “Our collection boxes bring in a significant amount of income each year, so it is very disappointing that someone would steal our money.”

Vickery’s fish and chip shop, in Priorswood, was also broken into in the early hours of Friday.

A 43-year-old man, Richard Billings, of Feversham Avenue, Bridgwater, appeared in court the next day and pleaded guilty to the theft of two charity boxes and a till. A woman is due to appear in court on June 5 in connection with the same incident.

A 32-year-old man will also appear in court on June 2 in connection with the alleged theft of a Brittle Bone Society charity box from Elect Fitness gym, in Viney Street, in April.

Insp Bob Muckett, based at Taunton Police Station, said: “We seem to have had, in my memory, an increase in incidents of charity box thefts and this is the first time we have had a string of them.

“It’s the most heinous crime; it’s like stealing from a church or targeting an elderly person. It’s one of the lowest points you can go.

“You have to feel for these businesses that have been affected; they’ve probably had windows smashed and that’s not cheap to replace.”

Gemma Richards, assistant manager at the PDSA charity shop, in Taunton, which had a charity tin stolen during a break-in in March, branded the thieves “disgusting”.

She added: “It’s tough for people at the moment but that doesn’t excuse the thefts.”

Insp Muckett encouraged businesses to make sure charity boxes are chained up and to make sure all money is removed and stored away safely every day.

Police are urging anybody with information about the break-in at Laing and Lewis to call 101 and quote crime reference 45663/14.