ATHENS, Ga. (WGCL) — Athens-Clarke County Police said Melvin Wilder Junior, 55, stole a bag of donated clothes from a bin at the Georgia Square Mall. What he didn’t know was the bag of clothes in his back seat was rigged with a tracking device.
“As soon as the GPS moved I got an alert,” Tim Peck said. Peck is the territory manager in the Atlanta area for Mid-Atlantic Clothing Recycling.
“This is not a one-time event it is ongoing rampant and costing us a lot of money. Probably, this is tens of thousands of dollars, if not more,” Peck said.
Peck said in the Atlanta area they are losing 35 percent of their donations. The for-profit business sells the clothes to different brokers. But, a certain percentage of their profits goes to DARE America.
“They are stealing from those folks (donors), they are stealing from us, and they are stealing from DARE America,” Peck said.
To stop the increase in thefts Peck said they have installed cameras at some of their nearly 90 bin locations, and have started placing bags full of clothes with GPS trackers hidden in stuffed animals. The pink Teddy Bear was placed inside a bag of clothes Monday night, Peck said by 4:45 a.m. Tuesday morning it was gone.
According to the police report Wilder confessed to stealing the clothes because he needed to sell them at a local flea market. Wilder only confessed after the cops showed him the GPS tracker inside the pink bear.
“This sends a message that if we don’t catch you the next time, we will catch you at some point,” Peck said.
Peck said another bag was stolen from a bin at an Atlanta location. They tracked it as far as they could until they lost the signal on a shipping container headed overseas.
“These clothes are going to Mexico, China, wherever,” Peck said.