British Columbia

40 arrested as Vancouver sees surge in commercial break-ins since COVID-19 measures began

Vancouver police say dozens of suspects have been arrested after an increase in break-ins at commercial businesses, many of which are shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crime has slowed overall, police say, but commercial theft is up due in part to shuttered businesses

A pedestrian walks past a boarded-up store on Robson Street in Vancouver on March 30. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vancouver police say dozens of suspects have been arrested after an increase in break-ins at commercial businesses since pandemic measures shut down retailers across the city.

A VPD statement Tuesday said officers had arrested 40 people "over the past few weeks."

"Although overall property crime is down in the city, there was an increase in commercial break-and-enter incidents once physical distancing measures were put into place," Const. Tania Visintin wrote in the statement. 

Businesses like restaurants, bars, nail salons, barber shops and other personal service companies were ordered to close when physical distancing and public health orders ramped up in mid-March. Other retailers have shut down voluntarily as they faced an insurmountable drop in customers.

Vancouver police said officers are increasing patrols around shuttered businesses to deter crime, but the statement Tuesday called on "the public and business owners to do their part."

Owners are asked to keep merchandise hidden out of view and away from windows, or removed from the premises altogether. They are also asked to use window shutters, to upgrade locks and ensure the space around the business is well lit.

Police recommended checking storefronts regularly for any signs of an attempted break-in.

The statement said charges have been recommended against the 40 suspects, including break and enter, theft, and possession of stolen property.

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