VERNON - A Vernon business owner is just about ready to call it quits after his store was broken into for the fifth time early Thursday morning.
Russ Gardner of True Outdoors thought his troubles were over after moving the store from 24th Street to the better lit and busier Anderson Village strip mall, across from the Superstore.
But about 5:40 a.m. two thieves busted open the door, sprinted over to a rack and grabbed armfuls of $800 parkas. They were in and out in 23 seconds.
Gardner says it’s a significant loss to the store, but insurance will cover it. What he’s now mulling over is whether he wants to continue doing business in Vernon. With a chain of True Outdoor stores in Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops, he’s not sure it’s worth it to stay.
“I don’t know what it is about Vernon. We haven’t had nearly as many break-ins in our other locations,” Gardner says.
The last break in at the old location involved the thieves sawing through the roof and dropping down into the bathroom. By that time, Gardner had already put bars on the windows, set alarms, upgraded the locks.
“It’s ridiculous how sophisticated they are and what they’re willing to do,” he says.
He’s certain the crooks did their homework and scouted out the store beforehand.
“They knew exactly what was there. I think they (parkas) were spoken for. I think they already had a buyer,” he says.
He’d be surprised if the thieves make the mistake of putting the items up on local Kijiji and Craigslist sites.
In the past several years, he says police have dusted for fingerprints and done stakeouts to catch the thieves, but they always get away.
“I like to think it’s not local people doing it,” he says. “We’d also like to think it’s not the same people doing it. That in six years, they haven’t been caught.”
If alarms, barricaded doors and a busy location won’t deter criminals, he’s not sure what will. Someone recently reached behind the counter and stole a $500 avalanche beacon. He got away but was caught on camera.
“It’s a tough economy. People are finding ways to feed themselves. Unfortunately, we’re the guys that get preyed upon,” he says. “If you’ve got the stuff they want, they’ll get it.”
Given the risks of the marketplace, Gardner is considering moving his merchandise online.
“That way everything is protected in a warehouse. It’s depressing to think about... being so disconnected, not being able to try things on. But that might be where things are going,” he says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.