THIEVES have 'stooped so low' to target 'gutted' charities, making off with collection boxes from across the town on at least eight occasions in the past month.

Having been chosen as Sainsbury’s charity of the year, Young People's Independent (YPI) Counselling was hoping that the generosity of shoppers to The Malls store would help the organisation continue to support people between 11 to 25-years-old.

However, thieves decided to take advantage of the YPI charity boxes left at checkouts, stealing three of them on November 3.

This follows five other thefts of other charities' boxes at the end of October.

Sarah Williams, executive administrator at YPI Counselling, said: “We are only a small local charity, so we rely on the donations from people to allow us to do our jobs.

“It must take a certain type of person to stoop so low that they feel they must steal from charity, and who knows they may be one of the people our services can help.

“What saddens the whole situation is all the shoppers who have generously donated thinking they are supporting a good cause, that money is no lost and we will never see that unfortunately.”

Sarah said that the pots had been in the stores since June so could have anything of upwards of £1,000 in total.

As well as the thefts of YPI boxes, Popley-based Spotlight UK has also reported it had boxes stolen over the last weekend of October, which left its founder ‘gutted’.

The charity said it has boxes stolen from Hollywood Bowl and the Oakridge branch of One Stop.

Michaela Riley, performing arts director, chairman and founder of Spotlight UK, said:” The money collected in the pots helps fund our mentoring team who go in to schools to provide one-to-one emotional support to children who have been affected by domestic abuse, young people with mental health issues, children in care, young carers and children who have lost parent or siblings.

“Our work is a lifeline to many young people who have experienced trauma so they have someone to talk to, a good role model and we help them to turn their lives around and feel positive about themselves again and help them come to them cope with the trauma they have faced or the difficulties they face.

“Like all charities, bringing in funds to keep the vital work going is getting harder and harder so to have funds raised stolen is absolutely gutting.”

As previously reported in The Gazette, there were three Poppy Appeal boxes stolen from a stall set up in Festival Place outside Marks & Spencer over one weekend at the end of October.

Three people were arrested in the wake of these thefts.