THIEVES without a conscience are targeting city centre charity shops.

The latest incident has left volunteers at the Oxfam shop feeling demoralised after the property was broken into twice in a matter of weeks.

And now the shop manager is concerned the shop will close as a result.

Cash was stolen from the till at the Bridge Street Row shop in early February after someone forced entry at the back of the building.

Then, on February 28, the front window was smashed by vandals trying to break in. The total costs to the shop are more than £1,000.

Shop manager Andrew Wilkinson said: 'The direct and indirect financial losses are huge, as well as the feeling of insecurity that results for volunteer staff as they wonder what can possibly be the motive.

'Oxfam GB Trading will have to stand the losses this time but these incidents will have a serious effect on the viability of the Bridge Street Row shop.

'It would be a great shame for Chester to lose our shop.'

Other charity shops in the city are concerned criminals see them as a soft touch.

Carol Omoruan, manager at Scope on Brook Street, said: 'We have been broken into in the past and it is very disheartening for staff.

'They think there is easily available cash on the premises and are probably fully aware we do not have CCTV or the resources of big shops.

'All these people do is cost us money in time. There is nothing of value to steal but they make such a mess. Our back yard was broken into not long ago and it took us so long to clean it all up.'

Oxfam is now appealing for donations to help make up for the losses and Mr Wilkinson thinks it shows the need for CCTV on the Rows.

He said: 'The shop provides valuable work-based learning opportunities, lowpriced quality goods for people on limited income, Fair Trade food, drinks and gifts and ways to relieve poverty and suffering all round the world.

'It seems so cruel to steal from a charity like us - and stealing £1,000 in this country is multiplied by 10 when you think of the cost to the countries we help.

'Our volunteers feel so demoralised - what kind of person does this?' n To help make up for the losses, the shop particularly needs good books, all forms of music including vinyl, cassettes, CDs and sheet, quality clothes and accessories.

Pick-ups can be arranged - just telephone the shop on 01244 341939.