A Victoria business owner says he’s seriously considering closing up shop for good, after the second break-in in three months.
Just after 5 a.m. on Saturday, someone threw rocks through the window of Black Apple Cellular, setting the store’s alarms off.
Half an hour later, with no police in sight, the thief entered and grabbed a laptop, cellphones and other merchandise before finally fleeing when an employee arrived.
“It just boils your blood. It really pi**es you off that this person is very comfortably doing this,” owner Mandeep Rana told Global News.
“They’re fearless. They know there is nobody who is going to come and catch them right away.”
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Rana said downtown business operators are becoming increasingly worried that rising crime could cost them their livelihoods.
Tourism has not recovered from the pandemic, and now locals are shying away out of fear, he said.
“We want people to feel comfortable walking around downtown, shopping downtown,” he said.
“Right now … a parent wouldn’t want to send their kid in the evenings to go have fun, couples don’t want to step out of their house to go downtown.”
Data from Statistics Canada appears to back up Rana’s concerns. According to the agency, Victoria had a crime severity index — a metric that measures the volume and severity of police reported crime — of 148 in 2021.
That’s far above the B.C. average of 93, and the Vancouver’s 90. It’s also up significantly from 2017, when the city scored just under 111.
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Jeff Bray, CEO of the Downtown Victoria Business Improvement Association, said he’s hoping for an “attitude adjustment” from the new city council, to be elected on October 15.
Bray said nine out of 10 businesses downtown businesses reported crime and street disorder as a top-three issue in the BIA’s most recent survey.
“It’s the attitude of this council that’s going to set the tone of what we accept in our downtown core,” he said.
“We’re hoping we get a really good balance of compassion and caring but also enforcement, and also that this should be safe and welcoming for everyone, not just those that are unhoused.”
Bray said he also wants to see other municipalities in the capital region pull their weight on social services, instead of leaving them all clustered in downtown Victoria.
And he said the province needs to step in with serious funding for mental health and addiction supports, while making “tougher decisions” about chronic and repeat offenders.
In the meantime, Rana said he’s been left with the difficult decision about what to do with his downtown business.
“What is our choice? Should I start sleeping in the store to protect my business?” he asked.
“We have to decide at some point, do we keep on taking these losses or do we just shut down the business? It shouldn’t be like this. We have been here for 10 years.”