A retailer has been left in disbelief after a break-in and damage to her front shop door left her with a £230 bill – and it was a week before she heard from police.
Helen Whitlock owns Wagtails Pet Shop in Benfleet, Essex, and told pbwnews that a passerby reported to police that her shop had been broken into on May 28 at about 9.30pm.
The burglar had thrown a brick through the bottom glass panel before kicking his way in to steal four collection tins containing about £100 cash.
Police attended and then instructed a contractor to board the door. Staff discovered the break-in when they turned up for work the following day.
Helen said: “At no point did the police try to contact me. Instead I got a compliments slip through the door with a crime reference number and a request to call 101. I tried calling 101, but after an hour of waiting on the line – which costs money – I hung up.”
Two days later, Helen received a bill from the contractor, who had screwed a piece of chipboard approximately 2′ by 3′ to the door. “It was the crappiest piece of chipboard, and they drilled through the door and screws were sticking out the other end by about an inch.
“I asked them, how do you justify charging £230 for a manky piece of wood, and all I got was that this was their standard call-out charge. The police could have called me and I’d have come down and sorted it myself,” she said.
CCTV footage shows a man breaking in – he was in and out within three minutes. Helen is convinced he had visited the shop earlier as the collection tins were chained up – the burglar had brought metal cutters.
Police contacted Helen on June 4, and told her that unless CCTV footage was useful, they would close the case. The officer also said it was ‘too late’ to dust for fingerprints, and that the brick thrown through the door was ‘of no use’ and she could throw it away.
Helen has replaced the bottom glass panel with wood and is installing a metal grille behind the top glass panel. She’s not claiming on insurance so as to protect her premiums. “We’re only a little shop – this comes right out of my profits, it’s like, you’re just walking off with my products.”
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “When we attended the scene we tried to find contact details for the key holder but were unable to. In circumstances like this it is standard procedure to ensure the premises are not left unsecured or vulnerable to further being a victim of crime.
“Often this is in the form of a contractor boarding up the damaged window or door. All of our contractors go through a rigorous tender process. Where we are unable to contact the key holder, it is standard procedure to leave our contact details and ask for them to contact us.
“This can be done by calling 101 or by attending your nearest local police station. You can also contact us online.”