A BUSINESSMAN claims Kirklees Police are leaving towns and communities to the mercy of criminal gangs after his bar was broken into for the third time in nine months.
Clarke Rothwell and his partners in Priestley’s Cafe Bar in Birstall town centre are around £20,000 out of pocket after the latest raid on the premises in the early hours of Monday morning – before taking into consideration the repeated cost of repairs. He says they need to think long and hard about whether it’s worth carrying on.
Two masked men crow-barred open a heavy steel security door, hammered open a heavy inner door, then climbed up and smashed the burglar alarm off the outside wall before raiding tills, fruit machines and ransacking the premises.
Mr Rothwell, 43, who lives in Howden Clough, says theirs is just the latest in a long series of raids on licensed premises that police simply ignore.
“I’m aware of robberies at Birstall Trades club, the (Old Wine and Spirits) Vaults on Huddersfield Road, Sheaf’s Bar, two attacks on Birstall Cricket Club, another two at Six Lane Ends club on Leeds Road and the Black Horse in White Lee,” he said.
“That’s not counting the other place we owned here in Birstall, Joe’s Bar overlooking the market place, which we’ve subsequently closed.
“The police officers come out, they walk around and sympathise and that’s it,” he said. “You hear nothing else and you can sense the officers know that nothing’s going to get done.
“What do we pay our taxes for? Because it’s not for policing, that’s for sure. If you live in Birstall, the only time you see a police car is when it’s flying through on its way to Fieldhead estate. Community officers? Patrols? That’s a laugh.”
Priestley’s, which opened in 2013 and has become a popular social venue in the district, is also home to Birstall Victoria’s rugby teams. It is located beneath and behind the Co-op on Low Lane. Mr Rothwell said people in nearby Carr Street heard the banging of the robbers, but said they were too afraid to phone the police.
“I’m not sure that would have done any good,” he said. “Are there actually any officers on duty in the early hours?”
He added: “It isn’t as if we don’t take precautions seriously. We have a heavy duty steel security door, CCTV all over the premises, the alarm too. We’ve tried to make it into Fort Knox but all to no avail.
“We think whoever did it knew the internal layout – even the policeman said it looked like an inside job – and the raid had all the hallmarks of other pub and club attacks in recent months.
“If there’s been an arrest, an investigation, anything, then none of the victims I’ve spoken to has heard anything about it.
“If there isn’t a body on the ground the police don’t give a damn. You’d think when forensic investigators arrive you might get somewhere, but they’re just going through the motions, they’re not interested.”
In the first attack last summer, the raiders even took away the CCTV recorder. A second raid happened just before Christmas.
Mr Rothwell said the men involved in the latest break-in wore tracksuit bottoms and hoodies, with scarves over their faces, and had a slight build.
He believed they were different men from the last attack.
“I’m not sure what more we can do except sit behind the door all night with a shotgun,” he said.
“You just feel like you’re left to survive as best you can because the police don’t give a damn.”
In relation specifically to the recent burglary, a police spokesman said: “Police were called following a burglary at a commercial premises in Birstall.
“Suspects forced entry to a door and made an untidy search, taking money and a wall safe before fleeing the scene. Enquiries into this incident are ongoing.”
Anyone with any information is asked to contact the police via 101, quoting crime reference 13170103210, or alternatively information can be passed to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.