VERNON - A Vernon business owner is fed up after two robberies at their store in the last year, and no arrests.
Aman Sudan and her husband bought the local Mac’s Convenience Store franchise on 27 Street about a year ago. Since that time they’ve been robbed twice; the first time in January 2015 when Sudan’s husband was working behind the till and got pepper sprayed by the suspect, and the second time this past month when a masked man demanded cash out of the register. The store was also held up in May 2013 by two men wearing balaclavas and carrying a hammer.
“It’s really hard, really frustrating,” Sudan says. “Safety is a concern right now.”
The first time, the robber made off with two packs of cigarettes; the second time it was a couple hundred dollars.
“This time they get away with $200, maybe next time it will be something more serious,” Sudan says. “They could come again. Next time somebody could get hurt.”
Aside from the emotional impacts and trauma of being robbed, and in her husband’s case pepper sprayed, Sudan says the crimes hurt business. There’s the stolen cash, lost revenue from having to close the store while police collect evidence, and most importantly the store’s reputation; if customers don’t feel safe, they might go elsewhere.
“Even $100 is $100 — that’s someone’s salary. These businesses are hand to mouth, we’re just trying to keep it up. It’s hard for anyone who has to deal with these situations,” Sudan says.
But perhaps the worst part of the crimes is that the perpetrators are still out there, Sudan says. Police had a suspect in connection with the January robbery, but not enough evidence for a conviction. Sudan says they provided clear video surveillance of the unmasked suspect to police, and doesn’t know what more they can do. She feels police aren’t doing enough to charge the people responsible and feels it’s only a matter of time before the suspects strike again.
“If police cracked down the first time, I don’t think it would happen next time,” she says. “I think they (criminals) think it’s easy to rob the small places, and they know if it’s not a big robbery, they can get away with it.”
RCMP Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy insists police take these types of crimes very seriously, and says they pursue every possible lead.
“Unfortunately it’s just not a guarantee in the real world that you’ll be able to solve every crime, but we are doing our very best,” Noseworthy says.
Video surveillance helps and is one of the first things police recommend for businesses that deal with robberies, but it’s not always enough.
“The pictures we’re getting is someone in a mask usually, with a hat pulled down low,” she says. “Unfortunately even if you have a partial face, in order to present that as the only proof of evidence before the courts, it’s just not enough.”
A lot depends on what the victim is able to recount from the incident as well, she says.
“Some of it lands on the staff members just being able to give us an accurate description. It’s hard for them because that’s an extremely high stress situation. We’ve had a few where we’ve had weapon threats and a few where they’ve been bear sprayed or other things have happened which makes it quite difficult,” Noseworthy says.
She says many robberies do get solved — often with the assistance of the general public — and points to a recent arrest in relation to a robbery at the Lakeview Market.
Since moving to Vernon, Sudan says they’ve dealt with and heard of more robberies than anywhere else they’ve operated a business and feels the situation is particularly rampant in the city. But Noseworthy says the problem isn’t unique to Vernon.
“It happens everywhere,” Noseworthy says. “You get desperate people and they make poor decisions.”
Police are reminding businesses to instruct staff to cooperate in the event of a robbery and not try to be the hero.
“At the end of the day personal life is far more important than property,” Noseworthy says.
Anyone with information about the robberies can contact the Vernon RCMP at 250-545-7171 or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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