Robert's column

Robert Barron column: Break-ins hard on business owners

I remember getting a call from the owners of Magpies Antiques and Gifts

There are few things worse for business owners than having their shops broken into.

I’ve talked to a number of people in the Cowichan Valley over the years who have been woken up in the middle of the night by calls from security companies telling them the alarms in their business have gone off and the police are on the way.

There are few phone calls in the wee hours of the morning that bring good news, and these calls must be among the worst.

In my experience dealing with these crime victims, they usually feel an overwhelming sense of violation, fear of the damage caused to the business and concerns over what has been stolen.

I remember getting a call from the owners of Magpies Antiques and Gifts, Liz Fincham and Jeff Knadle, in Chemainus one day in 2019 after they were awoken at 4 a.m. when an alarm was triggered at the store.

They arrived at their shop to find the glass front door had been smashed in, and the interior of the store had broken glass strewn everywhere.

After further investigation, the couple found, much to their dismay, that four glass display cases had been smashed open and more than $30,000 worth of jewelry had been taken.

“I just want to cry and go back to bed,” Finchan told me at the time.

“We’re feeling rather gutted and, right now, we just feel like closing the store.”

My heart went out to them, and I don’t know if they were ever fully compensated by insurance for their loss.

Running a business is hard work, and no one wants to have to deal with these situations.

The most recent victim of a break in that I talked to was Jeff Ross, the owner of the Gold Silver Guy location on Station Street in Duncan.

He received a call from his security company in late September after someone threw a rock through his front window one night at about 1 a.m. and managed to pilfer some jewelry and rare bills from his shop before the police caught up with two men a short distance away and arrested them.

Ross had to drive from his home in Nanaimo and spent the rest of the night cleaning up the mess and dealing with the RCMP as they investigated and wrote up their reports on the incident.

By the time I got his message about the break in and headed over to the shop a little after 9 a.m. the next morning, Ross looked quite tired after a sleepless night and perturbed over the whole affair, as anyone would be.

He told me there were some security measures at the store, including film on the windows to make them harder to break and several security fences inside, but the culprits managed to slip through anyway.

I figure they had to be pretty small people to fit through the little hole that they made through the glass, but desperate people are capable of pulling off some outlandish stunts.

It seems the best solution is for businesses to acquire roll-up metal shutters to cover their windows and doors, as some already do in the Cowichan Valley, to dissuade thieves from even trying to break in.

But that would be an ugly sight to see in local business districts if more stores were forced to do that, and it would also give the impression that the area is unsafe and tourists might decide to stay away.

“It’s the sign of the times I guess, and it seems to just get worse and worse,” Ross told me while sweeping up broken glass in front of his shop.

“Sometimes I wonder why I stay in business.”

What a shame.

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