A burglar who carried out costly raids at four local businesses caused fury when he was allowed to walk free from court.
Jonathon Coombe targeted four shops where he caused damage and stole property to sell so he could buy crack cocaine.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the break-ins caused "misery and frustration" to business owners through the loss of expensive machinery and stock.
But Coombe also helped himself to "ridiculous" items such as bags of sugar and fizzy drinks, which just added to the owners' inconvenience.
The 38-year-old, of Roman Road, Jarrow, pleaded guilty to burglaries at beauty salon Tessuto, Guy's chinese takeaway, Pizza Rush and Cakeaway, all in South Shields, in October last year.
Judge Tim Gittins told Coombe: "Misery was caused when what you did was discovered.
"It is inconvenient, frustrating and causes the cost of insurance premiums to rise, all to get relatively small amounts for the purposes of buying drugs.
"There was a significant degree of loss and damage to small businesses on each occasion, small businesses that struggle to absorb the costs."
Judge Gittins sentenced Coombe to 18 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements and a nine-month curfew from 9pm to 7am.
The judge told him: "You richly deserve custody in one respect. Some may say I am being lenient but I have to have regard to the long term consideration of benefit not just to you but the public by ridding you of your drug addiction."
At the end of the hearing, an angry business owner in the public gallery addressed the judge directly and asked: "What happens to the businesses?
"All the money he owes myself and other business owners, are we reimbursed or is that not even considered?"
The judge told the woman Coombe does not have the means to pay compensation.
Outside court the woman said the hearing had been a "waste of time" and that the sentence was "ridiculous".
The court heard Coombe has been assessed by probation officials as an "appropriate" candidate for rehabilitation and has not been in any trouble since 2013 when he found work.
It was when he lost his employment, due to the "economic situation", that he returned to crack cocaine and committed the break-ins.