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Boards go up at B.C. shops as thieves exploit coronavirus lockdown

Commercial break-ins increase during COVID-19 crisis
WATCH: Commercial break-ins increase during COVID-19 crisis

Anyone who’s taken a stroll through Vancouver’s downtown core in recent days could be forgiven if they thought they’d accidentally waked onto the set of a zombie horror film.

Along with the virtual absence of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, shops throughout the shopping district have swapped plywood boards for enticing display windows.

READ MORE: B.C. takes ‘unprecedented steps’ in response to coronavirus pandemic

It’s a measure meant to deter crimes of opportunity, as the city’s streets take on a ghostly flavour amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to Vancouver police, the precautions are warranted.

The VPD says there were 81 reports of commercial break-ins between March 16 and 26, nearly as many reports as in the two-week period from March 1-16.

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B.C.’s top doctor announces new orders to help reduce COVID-19 spread

Police say the spike was particularly noticeable in downtown Vancouver. In the first two weeks of March there were 20 commercial break-ins, while in the single week that followed there were 35.

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Vancouver’s not alone.

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In Kelowna, shop owners have also been putting up plywood, while the RCMP has launched a program to register CCTV cameras in a bid to catch thieves more quickly.

Heather MacLeod opted to board up her Nanaimo shop Fig Love Clothing Company as a precaution.

“We are just taking these steps because we realize there are not a lot of people on the streets anymore,” she told Global News.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. confirms 66 new cases, no new deaths

Jayden Prescott, owner of Victoria’s Goodnews Skate Shop, expressed similar concerns.

“I hate to say it, but it’s just a matter of time,” he said.

Police say they are taking the problem seriously.

“There is a significant incline to the point we are having to adjust our resources, our deployment and touching base with the business owners to give them additional crime prevention tips,” said Victoria Police Chief Del Manak

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City of Vancouver announce new measures to keep vulnerable DTES residents safe

The VPD is also advising businesses to clear merchandise out of view, and upgrade locks, lighting and other security measures.

Vancouver police have also boosted the visibility and presence of officers in the hardest-hit areas, and say they are running “several investigative projects to target known offenders.”

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