If furniture store owner David Screech thought he had seen it all, a full-sized campfire set up right against his building a few Sundays ago was a new one.
And just last month, employee Glenn Drew had his car window smashed and then a knife pulled on him after he confronted the suspect.
“He turned around and just had a knife and was like get the f*** away so I backed off and he ran up Government Street,” said Drew.
But it was something that happened earlier this week that has Screech seriously considering moving after nearly 70 years in business in the city.
“We had a fellow come into the store who was very vocal, physically threatening, screaming at us, hitting our windows and I was here by myself and it made me feel extremely vulnerable,” said Screech, owner of Gregg’s Furniture and Upholstery on Government Street.
The former mayor of View Royal says the problem has been getting worse, leaving his staff and customers feeling unsafe.
“It’s a state of lawlessness right? It’s the vandalism to our trucks, the theft and the police can’t keep up,” Screech said.
And he isn’t alone, he’s heard from other businesses in the area and across downtown who are nearing their limit.
“I talked to one major retailer, I won’t say who it is, they lock their doors now, if you’re a customer they have to come unlock the door for you because their staff are unsafe, not ‘feeling’ unsafe, they are unsafe,” said Jeff Bray, CEO of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
While the business community is optimistic Premier David Eby’s plan to tackle crime and homelessness will make a difference long-term they say action from the City of Victoria can happen now.
“The city can start to make action around saying we’re not going to tolerate open drug use on our streets, we’re not going to tolerate encampments, they’re not allowed and we’re going to enforce it,” said Bray.
Victoria’s new mayor says she’s on it.
“I think we can certainly increase the response time we have, we can increase the number of responses we have we can be a bit more vigilant, we do more of what we’re doing now,” said Mayor Marianne Alto.
“We’re having deep conversations with a variety of partners about what we can do, so hold on, we’re coming for you, and we’re doing everything we can as fast as we can.”
After decades in the city Screech says his lease is up next year, and without major change it may be time for Gregg’s Furniture to move on.