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Rash of thefts worries downtown Squamish merchants



The first time a rock landed through the window of Car Tunes in downtown Squamish, Chris Keene was alarmed but not really surprised. Keene, the only employee at the store, knew that break-ins were increasing downtown. Thankfully, nothing was stolen from his store.

Two weeks later, another rock came in through the door and this time the burglars took away more than 20 cell phones worth $4,000. Keene said it dawned on him that the first incident was part of a plan.

"I think the first one was a test run to see how much time the cops took to come. But the second time, we saw a guy walking around suspiciously and when the cops got hold of him, he had an empty backpack with him. Who walks around with an empty backpack?" Keene asked.

Businesses like Car Tunes in downtown Squamish have had to deal with a spate of break-in and theft incidents in the past few weeks in downtown Squamish. Some businesses say it's a worrying trend.

"Downtown is turning into a shady area and more and more transients are coming here. I don't want to label them as crackheads and homeless, but you see a lot of these faces every week around here." Keene said.

There are other businesses downtown who believe it could happen again, like Sunsational Vacations, which had a 40-inch TV stolen at six in the morning last month. Osa Sjostroms, one of the workers, said the management is planning on installing new security cameras around the store.

"It happens all the time here," Sjostroms said of break-ins in downtown Squamish. "They broke the front door between six and seven in the morning and they were in and out, just like that. I think they do it when the cops change their shifts."

In a recent press release the police said compared to last year's number of 18 incidents, there have been a total of 28 incidents this year. Police are continuing their investigations into these crimes and have identified a person of interest who has recently moved to the Squamish area.

Businesses downtown are not the only ones that have been targeted. KFC restaurant and Shell Station on Highway 99 were also broken into. The manager of the Shell Station, Elie Amaral, said there has been a flare up of break-in incidents in the last month, a sudden departure from the relative quiet of the past eight months when she first moved to Squamish from Port Moody to run the gas station.

The Shell Station has also been broken into twice, once with a rock through the glass door and the second time with a rock through a window. The cost of replacing the glass runs into the thousands.

"There seems to be a lot more stuff going on now. We see a lot of drug users and we have caught guys shoplifting. We hope the police will do something." she said.

These incidents mean some businesses will end up spending more money on steel bars, surveillance bars and then some more on insurance deductibles.

As well there have been reports of a number of motor vehicle thefts around Squamish recently. There is no word whether the incidents are related.