Skip to content

Downtown businesses irate over 'rash' of break-ins

Sylvie Paillard [email protected] Downtown business owners and representatives are speaking out following what some are calling a rash of break-ins.

Sylvie Paillard

[email protected]

Downtown business owners and representatives are speaking out following what some are calling a rash of break-ins. The residents are pleading for help from the justice system and from the rest of the community.

"It's coming to the point where people are put out of business," said Sameer Kajani, owner of the Voyager Plaza on Second Avenue where numerous businesses have recently been broken into. "We feel so vulnerable with our possessions."

Approximately five weeks ago, Kelly's Sports Consignment, located in the plaza, was targeted. Thieves got away with the crime and merchandise when the store's alarm system failed. A few weeks later an empty store in the same plaza was broken into and thieves hacked through the wall to reach the neighbouring Howe Sound Teachers' Association office, getting away with expensive office equipment. On Thursday April 6, the Trinity Romance Shop on Second Avenue was targeted, resulting in the loss of a substantial amount of merchandise and computer equipment. And on Monday (April 10) the Pause Café on Cleveland Avenue was broken into, and there were marks on Gelato Carina's doors leading RCMP to suspect an attempted robbery.

The RCMP are saying that the events are in keeping with normal statistics, which are slightly lower than figures for this time last year. From Jan. 1 to April 10, 2006, 56 theft-related incidents were reported while the same period last year shows 63 incidents. A total of 175 theft-related incidents involved the Squamish RCMP in 2005.

"I wouldn't call it a rash of break-ins," said Cpl. Dave Ritchie, but he did acknowledge a "cluster" of recent break-ins downtown.

The downtown is where most crime in Squamish occurs, said Kevin Damaskie of the Squamish Downtown Neighbourhood Association.

"It's because of the traditional fact that Squamish, politically and socially, has swept its social ills underneath the downtown carpet," he said, adding that residents are fighting back. "We're rolling the carpet back. We're going to clean it up and we're all going to have a nice place to live."

Both Damaskie and Kajani warn that business owners' tactics to protect themselves may result in vigilantism."We have to prevent what's going on," said Kajani. "But if we take things into our own hands, we'll end up in jail." The way to prevent this desperate recourse is for the entire community to work together and watch over each other, said Damaskie. Just because criminals are focusing their attention downtown, doesn't mean the rest of the community is immune from the repercussions, said Kelly's Sports owner Kelly Jackson.

"It's sending a negative message about our community to anybody who's visiting and even to people who live here," said Jackson. "If the rest of the community is aware of that then we might get more support as a whole."

"We can't promote Squamish as a fun, safe, happy place when people keep being robbed," said Kajani.

Although an investigation of the Trinity Romance crime led the RCMP to the arrest of a 37-year-old Squamish man living at a nearby set of residential apartments, downtown representatives say the justice system is inadequate.

"When you consistently arrest the same people for the same type of crimes and they're not being put into the justice system, that's when the citizens start to identify that as a real problem," said Damaskie. "And for a citizen to hear RCMP say 'Oh yeah, we know who stole your bike but there's nothing we can do about it.' That's unacceptable."

Ritchie said the RCMP is utilizing a variety of strategies to address property crime in the downtown. RCMP members are encouraged to conduct foot patrols at night and secure buildings that were left unlocked, which is a common occurrence, he said. Following a break-in, community policing volunteers will discuss with victims the issues that make them vulnerable to theft. The RCMP also made some headway while investigating the Trinity Romance robbery."While at the residence on this investigation, two other males from Squamish were located and arrested on outstanding warrants from previous offenses," stated an RCMP report.

The District of Squamish is also attempting to arm itself against the town's criminal element, according to Mayor Ian Sutherland.

"We're being very proactive in finding ways of dealing with problem properties and problem landlords and building owners and making life very uncomfortable for those who do business in the drug community," he said. "And we're going to keep on doing that. We're going to use the RCMP, we're going to use the fire department, we're going to use public health, we're going to use everything at our disposal to make sure that people who are involved in the drug business or help those involved in the drug business are going to have a very uncomfortable life in Squamish."

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks