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‘We have to find a way to stop it’: Vancouver businesses battle vandalism during COVID recovery

Click to play video: 'Vancouver businesses continue to battle vandalism during COVID recovery'
Vancouver businesses continue to battle vandalism during COVID recovery
More businesses in Vancouver say their pandemic recovery is being complicated by escalating incidents of vandalism and as Kristen Robinson reports, the suspects are often struggling with addictions and well known to police - but stuck in a cycle of catch and release – Mar 20, 2022

Packed with rare treasures from the past, Lorraine Shorrock’s store has been a staple on Vancouver’s Main Street for more than four decades.

The Source Antiques sells unique vintage items, antique reproduction hardware, British pub décor, darts and stained glass – but after enduring two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shorrock said she’s dealing in broken glass.

Click to play video: 'Gastown business owners continue to battle break-ins and broken glass'
Gastown business owners continue to battle break-ins and broken glass
“I was afraid to put more Plexiglass [in] because he manages to break the Lexan,” Shorrock said as she handled what was left of her most recent smashed window.
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Small businesses in the city are under siege she said, from constant vandalism and theft.

“Nothing but being attacked – either their windows are broken or their stock is stolen,” Shorrock told Global News.

Across the street, T-Rex Urban Food & Coffee Bar kicked off 2022 with four broken windows.

Surveillance from the family-run corner store captured a suspect smashing the front glass door and window last December, before breaking two side windows.

The owner couldn’t afford to fix all the damage so he launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the cost of replacing the windows.

“We’re feeling very frustrated and tired, exhausted, and very sick of the whole scene,” said Shorrock.

The Source’s storefront has been scarred by four broken windows in the last three months, and the latest suspect was caught in the act.

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VPD says ongoing project underway to tackle street violence

“Luckily, he made so much noise, the last one, that he woke up the manager upstairs,” said Shorrock.

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Vancouver police were called around 5 a.m. on March 6. Officers were able to locate and arrest a 50-year-old suspect minutes later.

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The next day, Shorrock made a shocking discovery in her window display.

“I was a little bit horrified, I thought God, no wonder he can smash windows so easily,” she said.

Hidden in a mesh grocery bag with Santa embroidered on the outside was a sledgehammer.

“It’s really quite frightening when you find out they walk around your city carrying a sledgehammer,” said Shorrock.

Lorraine Shorrock of The Source Antiques found a sledgehammer disguised in a grocery bag a day after a break-in at her Main St. store. Global News

Francis Joseph Boivin remains in custody charged with break and enter, and theft under $5,000.

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“He definitely is well known to us. We have had prior interactions with him,” said Const. Tania Visintin of the Vancouver Police Department.

Boivin’s criminal history dates back more than two decades in B.C., where he’s been in and out of jail since 1998 for mainly property crime offences.

His 75 convictions include theft, break and enter, possessing stolen property, mischief, assault, trafficking and breach of probation.

“We have to find a way to stop it,” said Shorrock.

Vancouver’s mayor said he is working to push the province to do more to tackle “repeat offenders” in the city.

Kennedy Stewart said Vancouver has a large number of “super offenders” who are committing hundreds of crimes and being arrested hundreds of times – but being “released over and over and over again.”

In many cases, these suspects are battling mental health and addiction issues.

“Jail is not the place for them,” Stewart said at a March 15 media briefing.

“That’s why we have convinced the province to invest in complex care. The police themselves agree that we can’t arrest our way out of those circumstances.”

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VPD say 4 people per day are victims of violent stranger attacks, and many of those attacks have a mental health component

The 2022 provincial budget allocates $164 million over three years to expand the government’s complex-care housing program in order to help vulnerable people with mental health and substance use challenges who are falling through the cracks in the current model of supportive housing.

Shorrock’s business is across the street from 80 units of supportive housing and she doesn’t believe treatment options will work if people are released onto the same streets that feed their cycle of addiction.

“Rehab, but not in the city, don’t house them in the city,” said Shorrock.

“The way we’re handling it is not working.”

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