There has been strong condemnation after burglars targeted two shops run by the same charity in less than a week.
Customers have described the crime as “the lowest of the low”, with one manager saying charity premises are a particularly “easy touch” for thieves.
The first War on Want shop to be broken into was in Holywood, and it was followed within days by another on the Cregagh Road, east Belfast.
About £400 was stolen on each occasion, and damage of between £200 and £450 was caused by each raid.
And though they have both reopened, trade was lost as a result.
The upshot, said the charity’s shops manager Rob McMillan, is losses of anywhere between £1,500 and £2,000, which they will likely absorb themselves.
The 42-year-old Ballygally man said “it’s probably not worthwhile pursuing it via an insurance claim unfortunately”, adding that it risked putting their rates up as a result.
“It’s bad enough to walk into Tesco or Marks & Spencer and steal,” he told the News Letter, but by targeting a shop which clearly trades “for a very different reason”, the thieves had ensured that farmers in places such as Malawi and Uganda, where War on Want funds development projects, are the ultimate losers.
It appears the thieves crowbarred open both of the shops’ safes to get at the cash, and he concedes the vaults themselves were a “very basic” kind.
“To tell you the truth, probably that’s why charities are an easy touch,” said Mr McMillan.
“They rarely invest in that kind of security structure.”
The first burglary in Holywood was discovered on October 19. On that occasion, Mr McMillan said an earlier bomb scare had meant the takings were unable to be lodged, leaving more cash than usual in the shop.
The more recent east Belfast burglary came to light on Thursday, October 24. In that case, entry was made via the skylight some time after close of business on Wednesday, and the crime was noticed by part-time co-ordinator Elaine Gillespie the next morning.
Police are not linking the two crimes.
“It was a very neat job,” said Mrs Gillespie. “They seemed to know exactly what they were coming in to get.”
She added: “I was more cross than anything else... the money they took can be put to such good use.
“They can break in in the blink of an eye – and leave us to pick up the pieces and start making the money again.”
Asked what customers had made of it, the 48-year-old from east Belfast said: “People are disgusted, horrified. They feel it’s the lowest of the low to target a charity shop.”