"The city has to step up": Gastown business owner battling rampant theft

Mar 11 2022, 7:50 pm

In her first 21 years of running a business in Gastown, Jackie Haliburton only had to deal with three broken windows.

In just the last two and a half months, she has had to deal with seven smashed windows at her Gastown business. The last year has been particularly brutal for her.

Haliburton runs Angel Vancouver, a business that sells boutique Desigual clothing for men, women and kids in the heart of Gastown. It’s a job she has enjoyed since 1998.

Daily Hive Urbanized spoke with Haliburton about her concerns, and one thing is clear: she doesn’t want to run away from this problem; she wants to be a part of the solution.

The Gastown building that Haliburton’s business operates in is the oldest in the city, and is basically where Vancouver was born.

Now she can’t help but feel like the city — and this neighbourhood in particular — is dying.

We’ve shared many stories about storefronts being smashed and robbed over the last year, but Haliburton explained just how expensive this can be for a business owner.

Basic glass replacement runs between $1,200 and $1,700 for the type of window this building uses. There are other options that provide a little more protection, whether it’s laminate or tempered glass, but those options are harder to afford.



Haliburton recently made the decision to add some extra security.

“I had beautiful wrought iron gates made up, otherwise it would’ve been terrible.”

She also had a camera and alarm system put in, something she never had to consider in the past.

“$15,000 in two and a half months. Plus all the lost business, loss to livelihood. I’ve got four windows boarded up at the moment.”

That’s what Haliburton told Daily Hive Urbanized on March 10, but earlier this morning we received an email from her in which she said that the last display window has also been smashed. She also sent us pictures of the damage.


To complicate matters further, if you’re a business owner in Vancouver with a smashed window, it takes a long time to fix it. So now, not only do you have to worry about waiting up to a month for your window to be repaired, you also have to pay to have your window boarded up.


There’s insurance, but she has to pay a deductible for every incident.


Haliburton was also able to provide some perspective from the companies that repair glass in the city. She suggested that even they are struggling to keep up with the demand and have gone from about 10 calls a week to 10 to 14 a day.

She also painted a bit of a picture of some of the methods criminals were using to break windows.

One of the ways she suggested involved the use of torches to heat up windows. Once the windows were heated up, they would splash cold water on them, which in turn shatters them.


Where’s the city?

One thing that Haliburton made clear was that the city is grossly out of touch when it comes to business owners like her struggling with theft and vandalism.

She doesn’t blame the police. She thinks that the police have their hands full just as much as the business owners who are dealing with the vandalism and theft. She said she spoke to one officer who was also a social worker in the past, and who claimed that he had never seen anything like this before in Vancouver.

“The city has allowed the area to go to hell. It really does look downtrodden down here.”

“I don’t get the city right now.”

She said that Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and city councillors have no idea what it’s like, and doubt they’ve spent much time if any in Gastown and the Downtown Eastside.

“I think the mayor has been down here twice in his life.”

The Downtown Eastside came up frequently during the conversation, and she thinks that a vast majority of the people who are forced to live in that community are good people. But she also believes there’s a criminal element.

“The city really has to step up. We’re going to lose Chinatown. We’re sort of losing Gastown. Why should we have to endure this?”

Haliburton feels like anything goes in the area.

“They’ve let Hastings Street go to hell.”


One thing that Haliburton suggested when it came to possible solutions to this ongoing problem is simple: light.

She suggested that many parts of this neighbourhood are very dark at night, saying, “it’s kind of the perfect place for crime.”

She added that “crime doesn’t like light.”

Haliburton also thinks that business owners and residents like herself need to speak up.

“If it doesn’t look like we value our neighbourhood, it’s just human nature, you know? ‘I don’t care, I’ll just steal this or break this.'”

She also thinks there needs to be more beat cops in the area, but also acknowledges that it’s not safe for cops to be around the Downtown Eastside on their own.

Haliburton believes that to run a business in this part of Vancouver, you need to have compassion and understanding of the complex issues facing the Downtown Eastside community. She acknowledges that the city has done a lot to try and support those people, but not enough. While they’ve allowed the community to get access to drugs, they have not provided sufficient options for treatment and recovery.

When asked if Haliburton had any plans to leave the city due to the issues she’s been facing, her answer was an adamant no.

Despite the constant theft and vandalism, Haliburton hasn’t yet given up on Gastown or the city.

Amir AliAmir Ali

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