A downtown Nanaimo business was vandalized and broken into for the sixth time in a month, leaving the business owner feeling “disgusted and gross” with the state of the neighbourhood.
The owner of the Vault Café, Amanda Scott, said her business was hit twice over the weekend, with the latest incident being reported to police early Monday, April 3, between 4:30-5:30 a.m., resulting in stolen merchandise.
According to RCMP, a hole was found in the glass door with a potted plant inside the building that appears to have been thrown into the business. The Vault also suffered damage to the main front window along Wallace Street, seemingly unrelated to the break-and-enter. Police records also noted that four panes of glass had been smashed over the last month.
In mid March, Scott reported spotting two people near the rear of the business trying to climb a pipe to the roof, allegedly attempting to break in through the skylight.
“I’ve been here nine years – never once a window broken,” she said. “What’s happened … has never happened, not during the ‘tent city’ era, or any of that. Right now it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”
Scott doesn’t believe her business is being specifically targeted, but that the criminal activity is a symptom of the degradation of the neighbourhood, adding that she and other business owners feel “outnumbered.”
“I have all the compassion in my heart for those folks [experiencing homelessness] … it’s not a chosen life … but the desperation is just so unbelievable,” she said. “I’m throwing down thousands and thousands of dollars just trying to clean up a mess.”
In response to the repeated incidents, Scott said her employees no longer open early by themselves since the “mornings are terrifying” and she has even contemplated adjusting business hours and no longer hosting live performances.
“I’ve had to have my dad come sleep in the restaurant overnight if I’m not there … We have to have someone stay in the shop now, 24/7. And if we’re not there, then someone smashes windows and breaks in,” she said.
Reserve Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesperson, confirmed that several other businesses in the downtown core have recently been vandalized as well, some with no apparent attempts to break in.
“It’s become relatively normal now, where it’s happening late at night…” he said. “Marginalized people with significant mental health issues who happen to be in the downtown core … often get a fixation on a certain building.”
Scott suggested either having RCMP posted in the neighbourhood, or re-opening of the downtown community policing office, might provide a police presence that could dissuade the criminal activity.
In the meantime, the café’s owner hired a muralist to paint the outside wood of the shattered window so “downtown looks a little less terrifying” as they wait for glass replacements.
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