Traders charged for thugs' actions

TRADERS whose shops are vandalised by thugs at night could arrive for work to find their broken windows boarded up . . . and a bill for the privilege.It emerged today police are no longer calling shopkeepers to tell them their premises have been attacked, and instead arrange for the damage to be temporarily repaired at a cost possibly running into hundreds of pounds.

TRADERS whose shops are vandalised by thugs at night could arrive for work to find their broken windows boarded up . . . and a bill for the privilege.

It emerged today police are no longer calling shopkeepers to tell them their premises have been attacked, and instead arrange for the damage to be temporarily repaired at a cost possibly running into hundreds of pounds.

Officers have suspended their keyholders' database – a courtesy service – because businesses failed to keep it up to date.

But business owners are furious – and say they would like to be given the chance to board up any damage themselves, or at least find a cheaper quote.

Joe Crowley, who owns a café and ice cream parlour on Felixstowe seafront, arrived to open his premises to find the window boarded up.

He said: "No-one had telephoned me so I contacted the police and spoke to the duty sergeant, who said officers had estimated the damage at about £100 and called in a company to put a board in.

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"So I asked, 'Why didn't you call me?' and he said, they were not allowed to – I couldn't believe it. They were not allowed to call me, the owner and registered keyholder to say there was a problem, but they were allowed to call someone to board up my window for me.

"It's ridiculous. I have boards here already and could have done the work myself at no cost. I am being charged for being a victim of crime."

Barber Jim Adams, of Jim and Donna's Hairdressers, Hamilton Road, has put a disclaimer in his shop warning police he will not pay for any work done as a result of a break-in or vandalism without his approval.

Mr Adams said: "I think it's diabolical – it's bad enough finding out someone has smashed your window without the police not telling you and then deciding who should come and deal with it and how much you will pay them."

A police spokeswoman said: "Our first duty is to protect public and property and therefore if damage is discovered steps will be taken to secure the premises.

"Legally we don't have an obligation to maintain a keyholders' database. "However, under the Data Protection Act there is a legal requirement that any such electronic records are accurate and updated.

"Past experience has shown that keyholder records have not been updated by some businesses and police have previously called keyholders in the early hours only to be told they have left the company concerned.

"Because of this lack of compliance with legal requirements, the force has had to suspend their database, which was provided as a courtesy service."

Keyholders were still called if their alarm system was linked to an alarm company, and the force is currently looking to put a new web-based system in place to provide an improved service to businesses.

n. What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstar.co.uk

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