In Nanaimo, many downtown business owners and shopkeepers say they are frustrated by the growing social disorder that’s impacting their workplaces.
One restaurant owner says a robbery this past week has left her fearing for her life.
“I’m very scared and worried,” said Agnes Kim, one of Nana Sushi’s owners.
Around 5 p.m. Monday, a 34-year-old man walked into the restaurant and went into a back room. One of the chefs heard a commotion and found the man rummaging through the staff’s belongings.
“So he asked who are you? He pushed our main chef and our chef tried to catch him but he was hitting his arm,” said Kim.
The robber managed to run out of the restaurant with two knives and cash with two in hot pursuit.
Eventually, police caught him under the Bastion Street Bridge. Iouri Strijik has been charged with robbery. He’s now been released with conditions and a future court date.
Just a block away on Cavan Street, a law office is spending thousands on some new gating to protect the front of the business.
“As you can see across the road the city has installed a porta-potty. Up until that point in time the situation was rather manageable since then it’s become uncontrollable,” said Iain McIver, a lawyer with Fabris, McIver, Hornquist & Radcliffe.
McIver says garbage, human waste and social disorder are now common, a concern many downtown Nanaimo business owners say they’re experiencing.
“We need more treatment options frankly. Clearly, there’s a mental component to some of it,” said McIver.
McIver says the social disorder has reached a boiling point citing that it’s the worst it has been in the office’s 40 years of being there.
The region’s MLA and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions says a lot of projects are in the works but the pandemic and opioid crisis has increased needs across the province
“We’ve never spent so much on mental health and addictions resources and prevention as we are in the history of British Columbia right now and these resources are just getting snapped up in a minute because the demand is rising so fast and it’s hard on everybody,” said Sheila Malcolmson.
Back at Nana Sushi, the robbery is added to the list of broken windows and stolen tip jars.
Extra problems on top of a challenging time for restaurants, a business in which she says her life savings are fully invested.
Business owners say they’ve been seeing increasing problems in recent years.