A BUSINESSMAN has told how he was nearly forced to close after five break-ins at his premises in as many months.
Michael Boyle, who runs Rocks R Us, says thieves have targeted his firm mainly for copper cable, fuel and car batteries worth a total of £15,000.
He said it almost caused him to close the business and to cover his losses he has had to lay off a member of staff.
Mr Boyle says he has got to the point where he has resorted to taking his valuables home at night in a bid to deter the thieves.
The 63-year-old says other companies on the Thornley Crossings Industrial Estate, in Shotton Colliery, where his business is based, have also been targets.
He said that culprits who have been prosecuted have only received community service.
Peterlee police say they are taking steps to combat burglaries on the estate, off Salter’s Lane, and in the past two weeks have begun their Business Watch scheme at the site.
Business Watch, which is a network of firms co-ordinated by the police in a bid to cut crime on industrial estates, has already seen a reduction in crime on the North West and North East Industrial Estates in Peterlee.
Mr Boyle said his business, which sells building materials, was last burgled on January 5.
He said: “The last time, they stole three batteries and fuel out of the vehicles.
“They also wrecked one of my big steel containers and pinched every bit of copper cable.
“They took batteries then, as well as tools and chainsaws.
“They take anything that’s lying there, even wheelbarrows.
“We are on the verge of shutting.
“Every day I come in, I think ‘oh God, I hope they haven’t been in’.”
But Mr Boyle, who has boosted security to try to protect his business, said he would not let the thieves win out of “dogged determination to beat them”.
“Why should I be shut down by a pack of thieves?” he added.
Sergeant Steve Hawkes, of Peterlee police, said there had been several arrests after crimes on the estate and officers were targeting known metal thieves.
He added: “We are aware of the problems around the break-ins in that locality and are working in partnership with the business owners. It is a priority to us.
“We have upgraded both covert and overt patrols and have worked in partnership to set up a Business Watch.”
Any East Durham businesses wishing to sign up to Business Watch can call community liaison officer Sarah Willis on 0345 6060365.