Local thrift stores are targets of theft

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PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- Three burglaries in the last month, all at one charity's thrift stores, are likely to result in fewer poor people receiving help this holiday season. The break-ins happened at three stores owned and operated by Hillcrest Transitional Housing.

Thieves smashed a display window at the Hillcrest Thrift Store here on Thanksgiving Day. The crooks stole a Christmas Ferris wheel that was on display. Then on Black Friday burglars struck again at the Hillcrest Thrift Shop in Clay County, breaking in a back door and stealing the store's safe, which had money inside.

Hillcrest Transitional Housing uses the money raised from these thrift shops to help families move from homelessness to self-sufficiency. The charity has an insurance deductible of $2,500. It probably will replace the large plate glass window at the Platte City store out of its own pocket. The stolen Ferris wheel was worth about $200. And that combined with repairing damage and replacing losses at two other shops hit by thieves is going to limit the work the charity does to help homeless families.

"That's the downside to this," said Lou Warner, acting general manager of the Platte City store. "People don't realize the money it will take me just to replace that plate glass window is what we would use to put a family through our transitional housing ministry. So in essence what we're going to do now by having to spend the money here, we literally have to tell a family, 'No you can't come through now during the holiday season.' We're literally picking, what family do you choose to tell them no."

Last month, FOX 4 News reported on how thieves ransacked a similar Hillcrest Thrift Store in Lee's Summit. Following our report, a viewer provided the eastern Jackson County store with surveillance cameras. Warner said after these latest incidents the charity will discuss spending more of its limited resources to upgrade security at the other stores.

No one has an explanation for why the Hillcrest Thrift Stores seem to be targeted by thieves. Warner believes criminals assume that non-profits are more vulnerable. The Hillcrest Stores are operated by volunteers. If you can help police with information on any of the thefts, call the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

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