Gangs swoop on city swap shops

thisisoxfordshire: Members of the local community check out the items at a swap shop at Bullingdon Community Centre last year Members of the local community check out the items at a swap shop at Bullingdon Community Centre last year

SWAP shop volunteers say gangs of traders have been snatching donated goods and selling them on at car boot sales.

Helpers at a Headington swap shop said they had been forced to ban some persistent traders who hover by the door ready to grab anything of value from residents donating unwanted goods.

They have even called police after some became aggressive and claimed banning them was an infringement of their human rights.

Now they are appealing to the public to use the swap shops in the spirit in which they are intended – to help the community financially and reduce the number of items going to landfill.

Swap shops provide a venue where reusable unwanted household items such as clothes, books and furniture, can be dropped off or swapped.

Volunteer Kate Hart helped set up the Headington Community Centre swap shop, in Gladstone Road, two years ago, which runs on the third Saturday of every month.

She said: “Generally they are fairly easy to spot because they snatch things out of people’s hands before we have even had a chance to look at them, or they stand by the door and grab things.

“Quite often people say they’ve seen them at car boot sales.

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“We gently remind them it is to help the community and if they still continue we ban them. They generally get quite verbally aggressive to the point that when we were expecting some trouble we asked the Pcsos to come along.

“It has been fairly quiet at the moment, but we can’t let our guard down because they could come back at any point.

“We now stand at the front door because they’re not going to barge past us.”

At the Bullingdon Community Centre swap shop, which runs on the second Saturday of every month and attracts 200 people, Patricia White says the problem had begun to blight the event.

She said car booters were after anything in good condition or that appeared to be of value, from televisions to books.

Volunteer Mrs White, the centre’s caretaker, said a group of four people came regularly and called their friends on mobile phones if items of value came in.

She said they loaded them on to vans before selling them at car boot sales.

She said: “This behaviour is not fair on the people who bring the items in and there is nothing left of value for them to take in exchange.

“We had a lot of camping stuff delivered and before we knew it was loaded on to a van outside.

“I think these people are despicable and abuse a service that is meant to be free to help people who wish to exchange things.

“They are making money at other people’s expense.

“We are trying to help people in need.”

  • People can swap unwanted household items at a swap shop next Saturday. The session runs from 10.30am to 12.30pm at the Barn, in Nightingale Avenue, Greater Leys. For details or to help out text Moe Scholl on 07879 044144.

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