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Downtown Vernon business relocating due to repeated break-ins, thefts

Click to play video: 'Business leaves downtown Vernon due to crime concerns' Business leaves downtown Vernon due to crime concerns
Frustrated with the level of crime in Vernon's downtown, a local business owner says he's moving his store online – Dec 19, 2019

A small business owner in downtown Vernon is closing his store’s doors and eyeing relocation because of repeated break-ins.

In a Facebook video, Okanagan Skate Company owner Steven Wach said over the last five years, he’s had numerous problems, including break-ins, broken windows and a fire.

The business is located at 2902B 30th Ave., though this is the store’s third location along 30th Avenue.

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“Downtown (Vernon) is just getting worse, not better,” Wach said in the video, noting two nearby businesses have also been broken into.

Wach said the cost of buying plywood, lost and stolen items, plus expenses for things not covered by his insurance, has added up significantly.

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“I’ve probably lost over $40,000 in five years. So how can anybody stay downtown and economically do business when these are the things that are happening?”

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In an interview with Global News on Wednesday, Wach said the store’s last day in downtown Vernon will be Dec. 27.

“As a small business owner, when you have these huge financial setbacks, it affects the business economically,” said Wach, adding he’s had to cut full-time summer employees to part-time to help alleviate the financial losses.

“Unfortunately, with some of these losses, that stops a small business owner like myself from being able to maintain and keep my summer staffing.”

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Wach says the losses stem from those with struggling addictions and mental health issues.

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“Unfortunately, with some of these challenges, it increases the amount of theft that’s taking place,” said Wach.

“It’s making it quite hard for businesses to be profitable in the downtown region.”

Wach said his decision to close the store “came about a week or two weeks ago, after I had numerous items in one day stolen, as well as having a tire slashed.”

He plans on transitioning to a full online store in 2020, along with hopefully securing a new location outside the downtown core.

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Vernon mayor Victor Cumming says he feels for Wach, stating “if that was my business, I’d be frustrated and really disappointed.”

Cumming said it’s not a new complaint, as “crime is a big issue,” but says improvements have been made to the city’s downtown core, including improved police access.

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“I think we’ve had some significant improvement in 2019,” said Cumming. “I think we’ve had some great improvement in the last three to four months.

“RCMP have refocused some of their efforts on the downtown core, I think we’ve seen some of the changes. We’ve done some good stuff on crime prevention, we’re doing better stuff with community safety.

Cumming added that “not all businesses have been experiencing what this fellow has experienced. We are seeing more businesses in the downtown business area than we did before. We’re seeing really vibrant businesses in the downtown; lots of owners that we speak to indicate their biggest issue is hiring more staff.”

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