Tammy Bernier, an employee at Duncan’s Impeccable Jewellery, chased a man who stole a watch from the store on July 16. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Citizens tackle jewel thief in downtown Duncan

Suspect taken into custody after watch-snatcher chased through the streets

Tammy Bernier knew a man who entered Impeccable Jewellery in Duncan on July 16 was up to no good when he wouldn’t make eye contact with her.

Bernier, who has worked at the Craig Street business for more than four years, said the man had been in the store a couple of times before and she recognized him as one of the many street people who hang out in Duncan’s downtown core.

She said his eyes were darting all over the place when he entered the store at approximately 2 p.m. and, even though she was busy with customers, she kept a close eye on him.

“I saw him take a watch from one of our display cases and ran out the door,” she said. “I was pissed off so I chased him yelling ‘stop’ and ‘thief’ and then William (Slang), who works at Station Street Cafe, tackled him to the ground on Station Street. William put him a wrestling hold and the guy was saying he couldn’t breath.”

Bernier said she took the watch back from the culprit and Slang released his grip. She said he then picked up a knife that he dropped in the scuffle and she told Slang to just let him go.

“Nothing would be done to him anyway if we turned him over to the authorities,” Bernier said. “I’m not surprised this happened. These people are all over the place downtown. The real hero of this story is William and I thank him for his help.”

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Meanwhile, Brad Leith, owner of Impeccable Jewellery, was also at the store when the watch was stolen and tried to join the chase with Bernier but tripped on the way out of the store. He finally caught up to her just as the culprit was released after Bernier retrieved the watch. 

Leith said the man began running again when he saw him come around the corner and he continued the chase him across Canada Avenue and around the Train Station.

“He pulled the knife on me when I was about 60 feet behind him and I backed off, but I continued following him around the back of the Duncan Garage,” Leith said. “I waited there for the police to arrive with two workers from the Cowichan Valley Regional District who had picked me up. The police arrived and tracked down the guy and now he’s in custody.”

Leith said his shop has been broken into at night a couple of times, but this was the first time he was robbed in broad daylight while the store was open.

He said he has placed bars on his windows and installed other deterrents which helped deal with the break-ins at night, but he’s concerned about the fact that the thieves are getting so bold as to try to steal from him while he and his staff are in the store.

“This is a huge issue, not just in Duncan but right across Canada,” he said. 

“I’m willing to call an ace an ace and not afraid to say this issue is being caused by drug-induced criminals who have no respect for anyone. The problem is only getting worse and it’s not the fault of the police who are trying their best to do their jobs, but the courts who keep letting these criminals loose.”

Leith said he will do what he can to keep his store secure during open hours, but he doesn’t like some of the options.

“I could install a buzzer door at the entrance (in which customers would have to buzzed in) but I don’t think that’s what downtown Duncan is all about,” he said.

“If we did that, we might as well pack up and move to a big city.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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