VERNON - A rash of break-ins are taking a toll on local businesses in Vernon, and that’s got a member of the community trying to turn things around for the unlucky merchants.
At least four businesses were broken into since April 11, including Kal’s Naan Shop, Shambala Clothing Co., Okanagan Skate Co. and Henry’s Dad Computer Repair. Three of the break-ins happened in the past week.
Derek Deans of Henry’s Dad Computer Repair says it could put him out of business.
“It’s awful,” he says. “I’m a small guy. I’m trying hard to keep going.”
The father of four returned to his business last Friday and discovered thieves had made off with a number of computers, including customer’s laptops. He was in the process of signing up for insurance before the break-in, but hadn’t sent the papers in yet.
“They cleaned me out, they took so much,” he says.
Earlier in the day, he saw two men looking through his windows and snapped photos of them because they were acting suspicious. Later, he says the same two guys ran out of a business across the street where they had apparently tried to steal a woman’s purse. He doesn’t know for sure how they got into his own store — which he left locked up — but thinks they may have stolen a set of keys because neither the door nor windows were smashed.
“About a week before this happened, I sold a computer to a guy who came in and looked really shady,” Deans says. “He had cash in his pocket and I sold him a computer right there. I think at the same time I turned my back, he grabbed a set of keys.”
All of this, including the photos, have been forwarded to the RCMP, he says.
RCMP have not responded to iNFOnews.ca's request for comment.
Two of the affected businesses — Henry’s Dad and Okanagan Skate Co. — are connected with StartUp Vernon, a community of entrepreneurs and developers. When Justin Jackson, with StartUp, heard about the break-ins, he immediately sent out an email to the group’s membership.
“This kills me. Both of these guys are trying to build positive local businesses, and provide for their families. Local shops are what keep our city and culture vibrant. There's not a lot of money in running a small shop, and when you get broken into like this, it cuts deep,” Jackson says. “One thing our group has stood for from the beginning: it's up to us to make Vernon better. We can't go after the thieves (that's the police's job) but we can help these guys get back on their feet.”
Since both Okanagan Skate Co. and Henry’s Dad refused donations, Jackson is encouraging people to buy gift certificates to help support them.
“What defines Vernon is the community. And a community helps people make a comeback,” Jackson says.
Anyone with information about any of the break-ins 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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