Police in Greater Manchester let three thieves drive away on stolen motorbikes - over fears for the safety of the riders who were not wearing helmets.
Officers were ordered not to pursue the bikes which were stolen from a showroom in Altrincham early on Thursday.
They instead watched as three people rode off on three bikes worth £17,000.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said the national policy on the pursuit of motorbikes had been followed. Two men were later arrested.
Conservative Altrincham and Sale West MP Graham Brady criticised the decision to prevent the police from pursuing the trio, while shop owner Tony Crawford branded the policy "ridiculous".
Mr Brady said it appeared criminal safety had been put ahead of public priorities.
He said he was "very concerned" that the decision was taken centrally rather than allowing the officers to use their judgement.
"This doesn't, in my view, reflect the priorities of the public who would like to see police giving chase when they see criminals in the process of committing a crime."
Mr Crawford, who only recently set up the Manchester Motorbike Store on Woodfield Road, said: "I just think it's gone ridiculous.
"If they are going to steal these high-powered vehicles then they can literally go and do what they want with them, with the comfort that they know they're not going to get chased with whatever crimes they decide to do."
Supt Steve Nibloe, of GMP, said: "The officers were asked not to pursue the suspects, as they were not wearing the correct safety equipment and were not wearing helmets, so it is clear to me the correct decision was taken.
"Greater Manchester Police follows a nationwide policy which gives clear guidance that motorbikes should not be pursued because of the higher risk of injury to the rider.
"Detectives are pursuing a number of positive leads around this burglary as part of their thorough investigation, which is ongoing."
One of the vehicles has since been recovered and two men, aged 24 and 26, were arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle on Friday.
They have since been released on bail pending further inquiries until 10 September.