Storefronts in downtown Vancouver are boarding up doors and windows, as property crime rates in the city have risen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a release last week, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) said it reported 86 commercial break-ins around Vancouver from March 1 to 15.
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The number of break-ins spiked the following week, with 81 taking place from March 16 to 24.
A total of 35 of those incidents took place in downtown Vancouver, where the biggest increase in break-ins has been reported.
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Many businesses across the region have voluntarily shuttered on their own accord as a preventative measure for their staff and customers, while others were forced to close due to new government restrictions.
“With the majority of businesses closed on Robson Street to support social distancing measures, they have unfortunately become vulnerable to increased property crime,” Teri Smith, executive director of the Robson Street Business Association (RSBA), told Daily Hive.
She says her business improvement association (BIA) has provided some crime prevention guidance to businesses along the retail village, including the removal of merchandise, installation of surveillance and alarm systems, and enhanced exterior lighting.
While boarding is not ideal, she says, the RSBA understands why businesses believe it is necessary to do so as a preventative measure, especially given the uncertainty of the required closure duration.
“Property crime is an issue in Vancouver year-round and we continuously implement new measures to help reduce property crime and target repeat offenders,” said VPD Chief Adam Palmer in a statement last week.
“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.”
VPD currently have several active projects to target known offenders. There has also been an increase in overnight patrol officers and community safety personnel.
On the RSBA’s part, Smith says they have enhanced security in the area by implementing an overnight mobile patrol between 10:30 pm and 6:30 am, seven days a week. The BIA-funded extra security has been successful in thwarting suspicious activity, she says.
The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s measures have increased as well, with mobile security patrols from 10 pm to 7 am, daily.
Boarded up storefronts are also a quickly growing preventative practice in other retail areas outside of downtown.