‘We need immediate relief’: B.C. business group calls for fund to help with vandalism expenses

'We need immediate relief': B.C. business group calls for fund to help with vandalism expenses

Caution tape and broken glass could be spotted in front of the Bay Centre on Douglas Street in downtown Victoria Wednesday morning, the latest act of vandalism in the city.

Photos sent to CHEK News taken earlier appeared to show a small hole through the glass, similar to a bullet hole.

Victoria police confirmed it was investigating a mischief complaint but said it doesn’t appear a firearm was used since only one pane of glass was damaged. It didn’t confirm what broke the window or who may be responsible.

Only a few blocks away, there was more shattered glass and a boarded-up window on top of the Yates Street parkade. VicPD said it hadn’t received any reports of damage there, and so hadn’t launched an investigation.

They are the latest incidents in a rash of broken windows and vandalism downtown over the past few weeks, with multiple businesses targeted.

“I think it’s disheartening, but I also think it’s something we can use to point to support for the police department and the work they’re doing,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto.

Alto said the city is having ongoing discussions about increasing enforcement and security and recently doubled the fund for businesses impacted by property crime, but she says more is needed.

“This is not something that can be solved by a single municipality,” she said.

A group representing business associations across B.C. said it’s a problem getting worse nearly everywhere, not just in urban centres.

“We’re also hearing from smaller towns like Quesnel, Prince George, Parksville, they’re also experiencing these issues, downtown Courtenay,” said Teri Smith, president of Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC).

In fact, a recent BIABC survey of nearly 500 B.C. businesses found nearly half (48%) don’t think they’ll survive another two years if things don’t change. So while the province may be working on longer-term solutions to address the root of the problem, Smith says help is needed now.

“What we’re hearing on our streets is that we need immediate relief so that’s why we’re asking for a separate funding envelope that would be created that would help address the vandalism, the property crime,” she said.

The fund, similar to Victoria’s, could be accessed by small businesses across the province to help repair things like broken windows and graffiti and improve security. BIABC is still working on a funding amount that would meet the needs of business associations across the province.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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