Neil Mackay, joint boss of Mackays ironmongers in Cambridge, says he's be plagued by thieves and when he captured a CCTV image of a man stealing two drills, he sent the picture to Cambridge Constabulary.
But officers told him in order to obtain the man's name and address he would have to make a freedom of information request, at a cost of £85.
Mr Mackay told Cambridge News: "It's completely absurd. I've been asked to pay £85 for information which should be readily available to me free of charge.
"It feels like being fined for the privilege of having a crime committed against you.
"They even made the point that the charge is non-refundable, for goodness sake, even if they decide that it is not in the public interest to provide me with the information requested.
Neil Mackay said: "It's completely absurd. I've been asked to pay £85 for information which should be readily available to me free of charge"
"The size of the charge is neither here nor there from my point of view. I just feel that it is a way of trying to block the legal process."
Mr Mackay said police told him they recognised the "culprit" and he had been caught while committing another crime elsewhere and convicted.
He had been sent to prison for 48 weeks.
Mr Mackay added: "As a result it had been decided it was not in the interest of the 'public purse' to further charge and prosecute him for the crime he had committed in my shop.
"I was informed that the only way I would be able to gain any form of retribution would be for us to take civil action ourselves."
Mackays ironmongers in Cambridge
Mr Mackay decided to do this, and asked the police to release the man's name and address, so Mackays could start their own legal proceedings.
But he was then told he would have to make a 'freedom of information' request to get these details - and that would entail him paying a fee of £85.
Mr Mackay has become a national champion of businesses hit by repeated theft, appearing on TV programmes about the issue and demanding tougher action against thieves.
An official at Bedfordshire police, who administer information rights for the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire forces, including the fees, said she was unable to comment.
A Cambridgeshire police spokeswoman said: "A victim has no entitlement to information as to the offender in their crime per se, and so this information would be treated as a third party request for personal information under the Data Protection Act.
"All such requests, of which we receive a number, are indeed subject to a fee to cover our costs."