SEQUIM — For the last couple of years, Serenity Thrift Store has experienced break-ins into dumpsters, illegal dumping, vandalism and theft.
Serenity stores director Belicia (Belle) Muñoz said within the last year she has noticed those issues happening — and escalating — nearly every day.
“We actually drove to our parking lot and had to call the officers because there was somebody literally inside our dumpster at 10:45 at night,” she said.
Donations dropped off after hours are either stolen or scattered around the parking lot. Muñoz asks that donations be dropped off only between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at Serenity House Thrift Store, 551 W. Washington St.
Muñoz said these problems have been costing them time between calling police, fire and cleaning the messes.
“I personally don’t come in as happy and joyful as I used to,” she said. “I never know what’s going to be here when I get here.”
Customers have also been affected by people loitering or making a scene outside of the store.
“We had a customer say, ‘I want to escort it out because there’s a man panhandling outside your store,’” Muñoz said.
Muñoz said it is important that she is able to help customers feel safe and have a good shopping experience.
People have been breaking into the dumpsters and taking things, then scattering trash around the property, she said.
“They will literally break electronics just to get specific materials in there for resale, like copper wiring or conductors,” said Gabriel Bagno, operations manager for Serenity Stores.
To try to put a stop to this, thrift store staff have started taking safety measures such as locking the dumpsters.
“There was a week that we replaced the lock four times within one week,” Muñoz said.
According to Muñoz, people have been sleeping on the property and relieving themselves around the outside of the building or behind the dumpsters.
“It’s been a little frustrating,” she said.
Graffiti has appeared on the store’s dumpsters and sidewalks.
Muñoz said the police have been helpful by trespassing people when they are sleeping outside the building, going into the dumpsters or acting out of control.
Muñoz said they are still looking for solutions to help them manage this problem and that is hard because, since they are a nonprofit, they don’t have the funding for a 24/7 security guard.