Group calls for new funding to help B.C. businesses handle repeated vandalism

Click to play video: 'BIAs ask B.C. government for vandalism recovery funding'
BIAs ask B.C. government for vandalism recovery funding
WATCH: A group representing nearly six dozen business districts across the province is calling on the government to address vandalism and property crime. Emad Agahi explains. – Feb 21, 2023

An organization representing B.C. small businesses is calling on the provincial government to include funding to help with the costs of repeat vandalism in its upcoming budget.

The Business Improvement Areas of B.C., which represents 70 BIAs across the province, says the mounting costs of break-ins, broken windows and other property crime are putting livelihoods at risk.

The organization recently polled its members, and found nearly half said they couldn’t stay viable if current conditions persisted for another two years.

“It’s the compounding pressures that are facing businesses. It’s not just one thing, this is just the icing on the cake. It’s the straw that’s going to break the camel’s back essentially,” BIABC president Teri Smith told Global News.

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“It costs a lot to have to repair windows consistently or to have to deal with other impacts of crime. People are losing employees, people are losing customers, so revenue is also impacted, not to mention all the fear and anxiety.”

The problem is particularly acute in downtown Vancouver, she said, but members are raising similar concerns in communities across the province from Victoria to Kamloops.

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The money is badly needed, according to Iman Tabari, who owns BCB Honey Farm.

Tabari’s business has earned global attention, winning national and international awards for their B.C.-made honey, and opened a storefront in downtown Vancouver to try and capitalize on their success just as the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Three years later, they’re grappling with crime, including repeatedly smashed windows.

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“We are on the edge of deciding about maybe closing this location, because many problems happen,” he said, explaining that every smashed window leaves the business on the hook for a $2,500 deductible.

“We are losing money honestly we can’t afford to.”

Tabari said the store has gone from being open every day to just four days a week.

He said the company didn’t even bother to report the last smashed window because it doesn’t seem like police can do anything about it.

“I really don’t think there is a serious motive to go after these people. I hear police know most of them,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be punished if other organizations don’t do their job. We as taxpayers pay a big amount of money for policing here.”

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Smith said businesses are hoping the province can put a funding package together similar to the one announced to help B.C. municipalities with infrastructure costs.

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She said the province could repurpose the funding model it used to offer support to B.C. businesses during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Smith is also the executive director of the Vancouver West End Business Improvement Association, and pointed to a grant program that organization offers as another potential model.

The West End BIA allows members to apply for a $500 grant to help defray vandalism costs.

“They can put that money towards replacement of glass, putting in shatter proof window treatments, enhancing their security or alarm systems, better locks, better lighting, all of that kind of stuff to try and curtail the effects of property crime and vandalism,” she said.

In a statement, the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety said the province was taking “decisive action” to address repeat criminal activity, including a Safer Communities Action Plan.

The plan includes new repeated violent offender teams and expanded mental health supports.

“We’re committed to working with all levels of government to strengthen enforcement, ensure there are consequences, and address the root causes of crime to end the cycle of re-offending and violence,” the statement said, adding that investments are coming in the upcoming budget.

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Smith said the BIABC has penned a letter to the premier and finance minister, urging them to offer a lifeline to struggling businesses.

The provincial government is slated to unveil its 2023 budget next Tuesday.

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