‘It’s spiralling out of control’: Nanaimo non-profits hit hard by repeated thefts, vandalism


Karen Streeter walked among the VIEX buildings in Nanaimo Tuesday, worried what damage she would find this time.

After waves of vandalism, theft and destruction targeting the Vancouver Island Exhibition grounds and the non-profit Nanaimo Equestrian Association that’s based here, have left volunteers living in fear.

“Every time my phone rings in the middle of the night I know it’s the security company calling,” said Karen Streeter, President of the VIEX.

“It’s spiralling out of control. Over and over again, boards kicked out, water lines kicked out, we put taps in for our waterers and they get stripped overnight,” said Jacqueline Pieters, President of the Nanaimo Equestrian Association.

The latest incident was Sunday night when vandals broke into the equestrian offices smashing windows, punching walls, and stealing whatever could be taken.

“It’s just senseless. We are all non-profit. We’re all volunteers and then to have this happen,” said Streeter.

Previous break-ins have involved squatters and drug users living in horse stalls, thieves stashing stolen goods there, and the theft of metal. According to the Nanaimo Equestrian Association it now feels unsafe to even be on the grounds, and ride at your own risk has taken on a whole new meaning.

“Like we’re supposed to be a community grounds and you can’t trust that the community can use it, and it’s heartbreaking,” said Pieters.

Before COVID-19, the Beban Park fairgrounds would be constantly busy with horse shows, clinics, riders and clubs, but restrictions and cancellations have led them to be largely vacant. That’s when volunteers said vandals started targeting the grounds and hitting their non-profits relentlessly.

“It’s terrible. We can’t keep up,” said Pieters.

“Of course, most non-profits have no money to repair all the damage,” said Streeter.

According to Nanaimo RCMP, increased surveillance cameras and patrols may be the only solution.

“If it’s an isolated property you are setting yourself up to be targeted,” said Const. Gary O’Brien of Nanaimo RCMP.

Security costs the non-profits said they can’t afford to bear in addition to paying thousands of dollars of repairs. As grounds that were once such a happy place for the community, become ones few now feel safe to be.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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