Kamloops mayor cites continued crime as business remains shuttered | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops mayor cites continued crime as business remains shuttered

Tru Market, the Kamloops mayor's used car dealership, remains closed months after his election. It's not clear when he will open it again.

The owner of a used car lot in Kamloops cites the nearly 100 times he's reported crime and vandalism at his business when asked about its effective closure. 

The lot is empty. Bringing in more vehicles simply invites more damage and costs more money in his eyes, so there's little point in keeping inventory.

"I used to have anywhere from 30 to 50 cars, all late-model with one owner," he said. "Everybody downtown has had this experience. It's probably why I'm the mayor today."

Reid Hamer-Jackson often repeats the fact he has 95 "police files" with Kamloops RCMP, but it's a number he mentioned months before the October election. He's since either stopped counting or stopped reporting to the detachment.

Hamer-Jackson has kept the front door to Tru Market Truck and Auto Sales locked — customers are by appointment only — for three years on a property he's owned for more than 20. He sells pre-owned vehicles, ranging from SUVs and sports cars to bucket trucks. Now there's just one vehicle on the lot for sale and another he owns personally.

His frustration is eventually what made him run for mayor. There's been almost no vehicles on the lot since before the election as he steadily resorted to simply ordering vehicles on customer demand.

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"There's no point. They just get vandalized or torched," he said, referring to an SUV that was lit on fire at his Victoria Street West dealership just days after he was elected.

Since his election on Oct. 15, Tru Market is effectively closed, but Hamer-Jackson said he still plans to hire someone to manage the business while he's in office. He did have an employee lined up for after the election, but it's not clear what happened to that arrangement.

Hamer-Jackson isn't the only business owner on the street grappling with the stress and costs of crime, and he pointed to his neighbours in the area rather than his own experience.

"The only thing that's changed is things have gotten worse," Steve Smoliak of Boomers Auto Center said when asked how crime on the street has evolved in the past three years.

Someone recently broke into the roof and stole insulation, just the latest in a series of break-ins, fires on the property and theft over the past few years.

READ MORE: No jail for Vernon man whose crime spree caused $17,000 in damage

Just this month, Spoke Bike and Ski had its third attempted break-in over the past year. The Enterprise rental lot won't keep large trucks on its lot because catalytic converters will be stolen. Totem City Motors stopped keeping motorhomes at the property because staff often found people making homes inside them.

These businesses aren't the only ones facing challenges, with more east of 1 Avenue also facing vandalism and crime in the downtown core, Downtown Kamloops executive director Howie Reimer told City council at a January meeting.

However, Hamer-Jackson sees Victoria Street West as an epicentre for criminal behaviour and social issues, where there are two homeless day spaces, two homeless shelters and a supportive housing site on the stretch from city hall to Overlander's Bridge.

People experiencing homelessness gave iNFOnews.ca a few names some use for Victoria Street West, like "Skid Row" and the "Green Mile."

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Hamer-Jackson often claims he was the reason the area had a security company posted to patrol the street after calling B.C. Housing staff in 2020.

"All of a sudden my (surveillance) cameras light up at night and it's security jackets, not buggies and fires," he said.

It didn't solve the problems at his business, but it kept some of the vandalism at bay.

One of his answers to the problem has been to push Kamloops city council to consider a drug recovery facility outside the city's core since at least 2021.

That effort was shot down by the previous council and again so far under his lead as mayor, but he continues to advocate for drug recovery-focused approaches for drug users in Kamloops.

While he leads the city as mayor, Hamer-Jackson is unlikely to reopen his business on his own. It's effectively closed and he only occasionally steps foot inside.

Hamer-Jackson has owned the property since the mid-1990s and said he has no plans to sell it while he's in office.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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