The head of the Vancouver Island Exhibition says the event is in jeopardy.
The annual fair in Nanaimo is celebrating its 125th year this summer. But in the past five weeks thieves have hit so often that now organizers say the big show may not go.
Sometime early Thursday morning, thieves cut the wiring outside and then inside the exhibition’s electrical building, leaving the grounds without power.
“We are quite defeated right now,” said Lynn Haley, Vancouver Island Exhibition (VIEX)’s president.
Over the past five weeks, the exhibition has been plagued with a series of break-ins resulting in stolen property and vandalism estimated at $20,000.
“This is not sustainable for us to continually have to repair wiring and locks and doors and panels,” said Haley.
On one occasion, thieves tried to steal the wiring in a barn, but then abandoned it when they realized it wasn’t copper.
VIEX workers are so frustrated by the crime spree that several of them stayed on the grounds last night to prevent another break-in.
Police say the wire theft isn’t limited to the VIEX. In the past 10 days, thieves have stolen wire from the Nanaimo Ice Arena, Merle Logan field, the NDSS Community field and also the poles along the highway at the Duke point turnoff.
“Just ridiculous amounts of energy goes into it and the risk these people are putting themselves for sometimes just hundreds of dollars of wire,” said Const. Gary O’Brien of Nanaimo RCMP.
“We’re working with the salvage shops, we’re working with BC Hydro and Telus.”
And it’s not just wire theft that’s powering the break-in surge. A surveillance camera at a golf course near the exhibition grounds shows a thief causing thousands of dollars in damage to two doors this week. All to steal some chocolate bars and alcohol.
“I feel dumbfounded why someone would do that much damage for fifty dollars worth of items. I don’t get it,” said Jason Michaud, general manager of the Beban Park Golf Course & Driving Range.
Police say they believe a small group of people are responsible for the thefts.
Those at VIEX say they’d like some help patrolling the grounds overnight because break-ins are threatening the fairs viability.