Two keen recyclers claim bungling police blew £20,000 on a huge operation to arrest them – for taking 47p worth of scrap from a rubbish tip.
Salvage experts Owen Gray, 50, and Angela Cubitt, 34, helped themselves to an old PlayStation 3 and a Black and Decker drill which had been dumped at their local recycling centre.
But they were stunned when eight officers in a police helicopter, two vans, two dog units and three patrol cars swooped to arrest them as they walked home.
Computer engineer Owen was later fined £20 and Angela was released without charge.
They claim officers told them the cost of the arrest operation was £20,000 and that the scrap value of the old electrical goods was just 47p.
Owen is currently out of work and often visits the tip in his home town of Gloucester to try and salvage useable goods which he cannot afford to buy.
He said: ”All they will do with the stuff at the tip is crush it and burn the plastic.
”I am unemployed, so cannot go out and buy this stuff – so I pick up whatever catches my eye and try to fix it.
”I go around to the tip about once a month looking for things to salvage and fix up. I have recovered television monitors and computers from there before.
”I know they have to catch criminals and what I did was wrong – but to send eight officers seemed a very over-the-top response.
”It’s crazy that they sent out so many resources when they’re shouting about how much they need to save.
”When they let us out, a copper told me it had cost £20,000 to get us nicked and that the items only cost 47p scrap.”
Owen and his friend Angela, an out-of-work chef, were arrested after visiting the unmanned Hempsted Household Recycling Centre in Gloucester on the evening of March 27.
They were walking away from the dump when they heard the buzzing of the force helicopter above – before they were stopped and arrested by an officer with police dogs at around 10pm.
The pair were taken to a local police station and held in a cell overnight before being questioned the next day.
Owen was eventually ordered to pay £20 to a charity through the Community Oriented Policing (COPs) scheme, which allows police to deal with small crimes directly.
The charges against Angela were later dropped and the pair were released at 3pm the next day.
Gloucestershire Police yesterday defended its response and confirmed eight officers attended, but refused to disclose the cost.
Superintendent Gary Thompson said: ”We take reports of crimes in progress very seriously, as the public would expect, and allocate resources based on how many officers are available, the quality of the information received and the area we need to cover.
”I make no apology, least of all to any offenders, for responding seriously to an incident like this and would urge the person responsible to think more about the impact their actions had.
”In the past, people stealing from tips have been responsible for other burglaries or thefts that have had a great impact on the community, so it is important not to downgrade our response based on the location of the crime or the value of the goods stolen.”
Barry Leach, secretary of Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership, called the police response ”excessive”.
He said: ”They weren’t to know the theft would only amount to 47p.
”Although eight officers and a helicopter is perhaps excessive.”