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Small businesses struggle with costs of increasing crime in Kamloops, Okanagan

Expressions of Time book store on 30th Avenue in Vernon.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Expressions of Time

Social disorder on the streets appears to be growing and with that, the costly damages and vandalism to small businesses.

Al Renner’s brewpub in Kamloops, Alchemy Brewing Company, was the target of a break-in a just couple of days ago.

“We’ve noticed criminal activity jump when they created a bunch of shelters down here in the curling club and memorial arena,” he said. “Now the shelters are gone there are fewer people around but lately we’re seeing an increase in coordinated attempts at theft.”

The brewpub was broken into on April 24, along with the hotel they are attached to and a neighbouring restaurant. Renner said a group broke into the hotel and once inside, accessed a shared door to his business, popped the hinges off and pulled the door out of its frame. A motion sensor they had installed wasn’t functioning.

“They made it to an alarm free zone, ripped open a cash drawer and were stealing sodas and coffee pots,” he said. “They ripped open the frames on our point of sale systems and tried to get into the pinball machines before police arrived.”

Renner is left with the financial and time costs of repairing all the damage. His establishment has been increasingly targeted by “weird things,” like a window broken with a rock, broken patio umbrellas, picnic tables turned upside down and stolen lights. He’s had a stranger walk into the basement during work hours to steal the staff’s bags.

When asked who pays for the theft and vandalism, Renner said: “No one. I do. When our window got broken two years ago I asked my insurance company what the deductible on my glass is and was told $5,000. We’d have to have every window in the building smashed to cost that much. We’re fortunate that we haven’t had claims to that affect.”

READ MORE: Kelowna's Mayor to head up new crime reduction task force

Over in Vernon, the owner of a downtown bookshop, Charlene Deuling, has opened several police files.

Expressions of Time on 30 Avenue sells used and new books, vintage and new jewelry, rocks, crystals and metaphysical items. She’s been at the location for a decade and has seen criminal activity there skyrocket in the last two years.

“In 2021 I had three break-ins where the windows were smashed and it cost me a lot of money,” she said. “I’ve had more rude customers, have had to refuse service and the shoplifting is constant. I have 20 files open with RCMP but nobody got back and my property wasn’t returned.”

Deuling has security cameras but said they are only good after a criminal act to identify and ban people; they are not a deterrent. She recently put bars on her windows which have stopped the break-ins for now.

“You can’t rely on police, or the courts. It’s broken, they have bigger fish to fry and its fallen through for property crimes because offenders know they’ll just get a slap on the wrist.”

She has insurance and when the break-ins happened, she made one claim.

“If you do too many claims your insurance premiums go up too high or you become uninsurable,” she said. “The government provided a funding program for security cameras here before, maybe they can do something for these damages.”

READ MORE: RCMP looking for suspect after 'costly' vandalism to storefront windows in Kelowna

Between April 20 and April 22, businesses on Pandosy Street in Kelowna had their storefront windows scratched with what appears to be graffiti tags, according to an RCMP release issued April 25. It was determined approximately 30 businesses in total were damaged.

“This is unacceptable and costly vandalism that can take a large financial toll on small businesses,” Kelowna RCMP spokesperson Const. Mike Della-Paolera said in the release.

Rallies where residents voiced frustrations against crime took place in cities across the province yesterday, April 27, including one held at city hall in Kamloops.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 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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