A shopkeeper was told off by police for printing 100 posters showing the face of a thief who stole a tablet.
James Callaghan became a DIY detective when CCTV footage captured the bald man inside Blue Sky Printing in Colchester, Essex.
The thief even looked directly at the camera as he picked up a £250 Samsung tablet and put it under his jacket.
Eager to track him down, 30-year-old James printed off posters reading ‘recognise this man?’ and started spreading them around the community.
They read: ‘We also want to make local business aware of this person so you can be better informed of people causing trouble in our area.’
And it worked – because two days later the thief tried to sell the stolen tablet to a pawn shop.
Staff took his finger print and returned the device to Blue Sky Printing.
But James was stunned when police officers told him that his posters breached data protection laws.
He said: ‘The community police officers saw some of the posters and came in and told me off. I was told ‘you can’t print posters like that because of data protection’.
‘I could not believe what we were being told. It’s complete nonsense.
‘I spoke with one of the local hairdressers and she said ‘we’ve just been told off’ for putting your poster up.
‘It’s about us taking a stand as so many businesses have been targeted by criminals recently yet we are made to feel like we are in the wrong.’
The man asked a shop assistant about printing costs and waited until they were distracted before taking the tablet at about 5.15pm last Thursday.
So far, no arrests have been made.
James added: ‘They (police) have said they will call into the shop to see if I want to press charges.
‘Of course I want to press charges – on the street we are on there have been six break-ins recently.’
In a statement, Essex Police admitted the officers were ‘misguided’ in their data protection advice as James, the owner of the images, can do what he likes with them.
The force said: ‘We understand that business owners may wish to pursue their own investigation, especially where their livelihood is affected, but would like to make it clear that only the police have the authority to fully investigate, solve, and prosecute those responsible for crime.’