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Commercial break-ins up in Vancouver during COVID-19 pandemic

"It appears thieves are attempting to take advantage of commercial spaces that are closed due to social distancing measures."

Some businesses have boarded up windows to guard against crime after closing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vancouver Police Department says commercial break-ins have increased and patrols have been beefed up in hardest-hit areas.

A Courier photographer watched as plywood was going up on the Lululemon store on Robson Street March 24.

Tim Boothman, owner of Mr. Handyman, said he’s boarded up a few stores concerned about crime during the pandemic, while others are searching for other methods to protect their businesses.

In a March 26 press release, the VPD said some criminals are trying to take advantage of the situation and it’s “taking significant measures to combat property crime while local and provincial measures are in place to address the spread of COVID-19.”

“Property crime is an issue in Vancouver year-round and we continuously implement new measures to help reduce property crime and target repeat offenders,” Chief Adam Palmer said in the release. 

“However, it appears thieves are attempting to take advantage of commercial spaces that are closed due to social distancing measures. We are targeting these offenders aggressively on several levels.”

During the two-week period between March 1 and 15, there were 86 commercial break-ins reported throughout Vancouver. 

In the one-week period between March 16 and 24,, there were 81. 

The biggest increase was reported in downtown Vancouver. Between March 1 and 15, there were 20 commercial break-and-enters, while between March 16 and 24, there were 35.

“We are continuing to partner with Vancouver-based business improvement associations to provide safety information and support,” said Palmer. 

“Many BIAs and businesses have been very proactive and have implemented additional safety measures on their own.”

To increase security, the VPD advises Vancouver businesses to:

  • Move merchandise away from windows and out of view or remove it from the retail space altogether
  • Use window shutters to minimize damage and reduce visibility
  • Upgrade locks
  • Increase outdoor lighting levels to ensure the space around your business is visible and well-lit

Aside from the VPD increasing patrols in some areas, property crime detectives are also running several investigative projects to target known offenders.

“We have very advanced analytical capabilities and are looking at crime statistics on a daily basis to identify trends and geographic hot spots. This allows us to shift and reallocate resourcing and plan ahead for new issues that may emerge,” Palmer explained.

“Overall, we have seen a reduction in calls for service for police over the last couple of weeks, and we will be ready to respond if this changes.”

Service calls have dropped by an average of 10 per cent a day since March 12, while overall property crime has fallen by 12 per cent in the past two weeks compared to the weeks leading up to the pandemic.

Read more from the Vancouver Courier