Tim Nye, 58, decided to take "matters into my own hands" after being left frustrated by officers who failed to arrest a crook who targeted his eatery.
He first caught rough sleeper Alfu Miah, 33, on CCTV stealing his staff's tips from his city centre cafe on July 31 and reported it to the police.
Tim, who runs Marmadukes in Sheffield, was told by the police that they had a file on the criminal, who was wanted for five offences.
He claimed that after lodging a report and providing CCTV footage of the thief, he was told by officers that they didn't arrest him because they had "lots of work".
Tim said Miah returned to the café on Aug 4 looking to steal more tips but had still not heard from South Yorkshire Police.
But when the brazen thief returned for a third time in the space of a week, Tim said he had no choice but to arrest the man himself to stop his crime spree.
He confronted Miah who had left to a different shop and detained him before the police arrived 15 minutes later to arrest him.
Tim, who served with Derbyshire Police for 30 years before retiring in 2011, said: “The manager reported this to me minutes later and exasperated by the lack of police action, I decided to take matters into our own hands.
“Sure enough, he was in a shop trying to exchange what I believe was change stolen from somewhere else that day for notes. I confronted him in the shop and told him he was wanted for stealing our tips. He tried to force his way past me out of the shop.
"I decided not to allow him to do so and carry on with his crime spree. He struggled, but with the help of my manager and James from Seven Peak Electrical, we detained him until the police arrived some 15 minutes later.
“The women in the shop was shocked, but relieved I had entered as they were worried about what he was up to. He had been in there an hour earlier. The police arrested him and took him away.”
Tim said the series of incidents has shown that the police service is now no longer able to provide a service for what could be considered "low level crime".
He added: “They seem to ignore it hoping it will go away. I don’t doubt there are good cops doing a good job, but the city centre seems to have been abandoned by the police and retailers are now left to their own devices.
“The officers I’ve met seem completely overwhelmed and demoralised by the lack of resources. They and the public deserve much better than what we are getting right now. Of that there is no doubt.
“Sadly the city has many problems right now. It’s fair to say it's going through its worst period since the war.”
The former officer has launched an urgent appeal to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to "make the city safe" and help fund the force.
He said: “I would like to ask all those in positions of authority to recognise the urgent need to make the city a clean and safe place to visit again. I love the city of Sheffield and believe that it can be a fantastic vibrant successful centre we would all like it to be, but it needs its leaders to step up.
“And I very much include our Prime Minister in that. If he truly wants to level up northern cities, then he needs to give Sheffield city the resources it needs. Words are cheap. Action is what’s needed.
“My days of arresting people should have been over a long time ago. There are good people in this city, who care and we need to come together and say enough is enough. Things have to change.”
South Yorkshire Police said the force will comment once legal proceedings are concluded.
Miah pleaded guilty to multiple counts of theft and burglary at Sheffield Magistrates Court in relation to the theft of tip jars and charity boxes, as well as a purse.
During Miah’s brief appearance in court, he said he hadn’t spoken to his social worker in 18 months after losing touch during the pandemic.
He said he had fallen back in with the wrong crowd and begged for help.
District Judge Naomi Redhouse called the thefts "serious and very mean" offences.
Ms Redhouse told the court: “During Covid-19 time he was placed at a hotel and managed to keep himself out of trouble, and the trouble started again when he left the hotel and fell back in with the wrong crowd.
“He has a long-term mental health problem and no one is treating it. I need to know before sentencing if someone is going to pick you up and support you afterwards.”
Miah will be sentenced next month.