SIX people have been arrested following a spate of thefts from charity bins used to collect donations for the poor and needy.

The thieves struck between January 19 and 31 at the Haydon Centre in Haydon Wick, Tesco in Ocotal Way and Sainsbury's in Oxford Road, South Marston. The thefts took place between 9pm and 2.30am.

However, there has not been an arrest in connection with the crime at Sainsbury’s, which took place on January 31 at 9.40pm.

Taking goods from charity bins, even if they are located outside a shop, is classed as theft.

The ownership of the items remain with the donor until the intended recipient picks them up.

A spate of thefts from bins has taken place across the country in recent years.

In 2011 one teenager was caught on camera squeezing into bins used to collect clothes – as two accomplices shoved his head through.

He rummaged through the rags and handed clothes to his friends as they kept watch before wriggling free.

The year before a homeless man died after becoming wedged in a bin as he tried to fish out clothes in Newham, East London.

The crimewave is depriving charities of tonnes of donations intended for the homeless and impoverished in the UK and Third World countries.

The clothes, which make an average of £7 a bag for good causes, are sold at markets, car boot sales and on eBay, Gangs can make thousands of pounds a year, with the British Heart Foundation estimating the thefts cost it £6m in 2011 – cash intended towards life-saving research and care for patients.

The charity has said thefts happen all over the UK at clothing and book banks.

In Wiltshire, clothes banks run by the Salvation Army have been targeted by thieves in recent years.

A spate of incidents in 2010 saw large amounts of clothing taken after the entry chutes to recycling banks in Royal Wootton Bassett, Chippenham, and Melksham were damaged.

Timothy Bennett, from Wiltshire Police’s crime management unit, said at the time: “The clothes that were stolen were intended for the Salvation Army and their theft has caused them a significant loss in revenue.

“It defies belief that people would steal from a charity.”

Anyone with information about the latest incidents should call 101 and quote the reference number 54130010101 or ask to speak to PC 2514 Sandra Higgins-Hughes.