Vancouver crime: Businesses complain of rampant vandalism

Multiple businesses are speaking out after being repeatedly targeted by people smashing their store windows – an issue they say is taking up more time and money than they can afford to spare.

In many cases, the businesses say vandalism appears to be the only motive.

At Dollar Tree, a store on East Hastings Street just west of Nanaimo Street, people have broken glass windows and doors eight different times in the last six months.

“It happens a lot. There’s a couple of different people but there was one guy that did it three times in a row,” said Cathy McEwen, the store’s manager.

Most of the incidents have been captured on video by a camera mounted on the other side of the street – and most of the time, the person smashing the window simply wanders off without even attempting to enter the store.

That was the case for the most recent act of vandalism, which happened around 5:45 on Saturday morning.

”We have just plain old vandalism where they just break the window for fun, apparently,” McEwen said. “It’s frustrating because it takes away my time for doing my job for one thing. It also cost a lot of money to replace windows, and it’s hard to get glass right now.”

At Stefano Ricci, a clothing store on West Georgia Street, someone also smashed the glass on Saturday morning.

Theft may have been the motive for this incident which happened around 3:40 am when a man pulled out a hammer and began smashing the glass door.

Security video shows the same person peering in the store’s windows about 20 minutes earlier.

The heavy-duty glass shattered but did not completely give way and after several heavy swings, the would-be thief gives up and walks away.

“I’m just so glad that he didn’t make it through. I know there have been many attempts and we have very strong glass which I’m very grateful for,” said Manuel Bernaschek, the store’s president and co-owner.

He said since 2018, people have attempted to smash the windows about once a year.

Both he and McEwen say they report each incident to Vancouver police.

“I think the police are stretched as far as they can, so I don’t know what else they can do. If ever you call the non-emergency line for something, it’s impossible to get through,” Bernaschek said.

He says small business owners have been dealing with a lot lately, even without attempted break-ins and vandalism.

On top of a slowdown due to COVID, Bernaschek says new parking regulations on Georgia Street have also hurt his business.

It’s something he hopes will be alleviated by a new arrangement he made with the neighboring Paradox Hotel that will allow his customers to use the hotel’s valet parking service for free.

Just as he’s dealt with that problem, now he’s worried about more attempted break-ins and he wants people to know that a lot of businesses downtown may appear to be part of large corporations when in fact they are locally owned and operated.

“People see these shops and they think it’s a big corporation behind it and they don’t think the owner could be a local small business owner like myself,” Bernaschek said.

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