‘Government needs to actually step up’: Vancouver businesses vent over string of break-ins

Click to play video: 'Downtown businesses see spike in break and enter' Downtown businesses see spike in break and enter
The number of boarded-up windows in Vancouver's downtown peninsula point to a growing problem for businesses. The number of break and enters reached its highest point in a decade, exacerbated by the pandemic. Richard Zussman reports – Jul 15, 2021

Businesses in Vancouver’s downtown core are again sounding the alarm on what they say is an increase in property crime and vandalism targeting the region.

At Lure Salon on Howe Street, the usually-bright front windows have been boarded over after someone attempting to break in, shattering multiple panes of glass.

It’s not the first time someone has tried to get in, owner Lisa Rofasco told Global News, but it’s the boldest attempt yet.

Read more: 18-year-old suspect in Yaletown home invasions pleads guilty

The cost to replace the glass is in the ballpark of $10,000, and while the salon has insurance it will still have to eat the deductible.

“Coming back from the pandemic it’s a big expense,” she said.

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On top of that, she’s looking at a five-week wait to have the work done, as glass installers have told her they’re overwhelmed with similar work elsewhere.

Rofasco said the city is reeling under mental health and drug crises, and that while she’s not angry at people committing crimes to survive, she’s frustrated at the lack of action from government to deal with the root causes.

Click to play video: 'Teahouse Restaurant hit by three break-ins this month' Teahouse Restaurant hit by three break-ins this month
Teahouse Restaurant hit by three break-ins this month – Nov 21, 2020

“The government needs to actually step up. The police have been wonderful, they’ve come, they’ve supported us — but it’s beyond their scope,” she said.

“People need proper counselling. They need a system in place that addresses housing, that has support for people. Until that’s addressed the problem is just going to get worse.”

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According to Vancouver Police statistics, there were 329 break and enters reported in the downtown core in the first five months of the year.

That’s actually down from the whopping 486 reported in the first five months of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic first unfolded, but still up 19 per cent from the first five months of 2019.

About 10 minutes away, the Vancouver Pen Shop on the edge of Gastown is also boarded up, after repeated break-in attempts.

Click to play video: 'Growing concern about crime and disorder in downtown Vancouver' Growing concern about crime and disorder in downtown Vancouver
Growing concern about crime and disorder in downtown Vancouver – Jul 3, 2020

“We’ve had to replace the glass three times. There have been five attempts,” employee Marlon Velez said.

“There have just been so many attempts on that window … just as a precaution, even for the other glass that’s intact we’ve decided to board it up.”

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Read more: Vancouver police set up neighbourhood response team over growing concerns on crime

About two weeks ago, thieves were actually able to get into the shop and made off with expensive pens, art supplies and even worthless display props.

Other times, Velez said it appeared people were just trying to smash the window for the sake of breaking it.

“Frustrated, incensed. Pick any of those adjectives,” he said of the situation.

Velez said he understands that police need to prioritize emergencies and life-safety calls first, but that he’d still like to see more patrols in the area.

— with files from Rumina Daya

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