A business owner - who had thousands of pounds worth of industrial equipment stolen – claims the culprits could get off scot-free as police failed to examine key forensic evidence from the scene.
David Payling spoke out after thieves stole a crane worth about £12, 000 from his DP Services Machinery Removals business in Halfway.
The 58-year-old Birley man claims the culprits left behind hand and boot prints at the site – but police never came out to examine the evidence and fears they will now never be caught.
Mr Payling said: “They broke in through a fence, dismantled the crane and took it away in a van, probably to sell on. This was not something done off the cuff, this was a targeted attack.
“The crane itself cost £12, 000, the repairs to the steel fence cost £3500 and then CCTV cost £6000 – so it is very costly. The people who do this don't realise the serious effect it has on businesses.
“But there were hand print and boot prints all over which police should have examined.
“But we are nearly a month on and nobody has been out. That evidence could be gone now, just like those who did this.”
He believes the crane was stolen sometime between when staff left the yard on Saturday, September 15, at about 3pm and when workers turned up on the following Monday, September 17, at about 6.45am.
His comments come after insurance broker Simply Business produced a report earlier this year highlighting Sheffield as being the second worst city in the country – behind only London – to be affected by tool thefts.
They told how thieves are coming up with increasingly creative ways of targeting small businesses.
This includes a ‘peel and steal’ tool theft technique, which involves applying pressure to a van door with the knees, before ‘peeling’ the door down from the top.
Fiona McSwein, chief customer officer at Simply Business, said: “Tool theft is undoubtedly the number one issue affecting hard-working tradespeople across the country.
“Stolen tools can be devastating – beyond the financial loss, it takes away people’s ability to carry out their work and negatively impacts customer relationships too.”
The Federation of Small Businesses in South Yorkshire also said tool thefts are a major issue for tradespeople.
The organisation said their members targeted by 'non-cyber related business thefts' are on average left out of pocket by nearly £6000.
Claire Reading, FSB development manager for South Yorkshire, said: “For tradespeople, the theft of their tools can be particularly devastating, forcing them to cancel jobs and lay off staff until they are re-equipped – and that can take time.
“Unfortunately, many small firms are not reporting crimes against their business anymore. I’ve spoken to a number of our members who felt reporting it wouldn’t achieve anything.
“It’s time for crime against small businesses to become a key focus for police and crime commissioners so that confidence to report crime can be restored and local enforcement activity applied.”
We contacted South Yorkshire Police for comment but have not yet received a reply.
Anyone with information about the theft should contact police on 101.