Financial losses from break-ins and electrical wiring thefts have Vancouver Island Exhibition organizers wondering how much longer the show can go on.
Volunteers arrived at the exhibition grounds Thursday morning to find someone had climbed to the roof of the electrical power hut, snipped through the live electrical service wires and then tore the siding off the back wall of the hut to enter the structure. Everything from the conduit and wires leading from the hut’s power pole to the wires from the electrical service panel were taken, leaving the grounds without electricity.
“The police were just here and they’ve taken part of the panel away, hoping they can get fingerprints,” said Karen Streeter, VIEX vice-president. “The second barn over there, they stripped the wiring out of the whole barn and then, I guess, they realized it wasn’t copper and they’ve left it lying on the ground.”
Wire was stripped from the horse stalls, too.
Lynn Haley, VIEX president, said there have been multiple break-ins happening with increasing frequency since early June, with locks cut. The Nanaimo Equestrian Association has also been targeted.
“They stripped the wiring out of there,” Haley said. “It was almost nightly [or] every second night it was happening and then last night, the electrical shack.”
Haley said prior to the damage to the shack, the VIEX was facing about $10,000 in repairs. Repairs might now cost $20,000.
“I mean, we’re a non-profit,” Haley said. “We can’t sustain this and we have a big fair coming up in five weeks … The thing is now we have a big event here on Saturday, Wheel-O-Rama, and they’ve rented these grounds from us and they need power, so we’re forced to fix this for them right now. The barns we’re holding off until closer in August because we can’t run the risk of them ripping it out again.”
VIEX administration has tried to upgrade security measures, installing extra lighting and security cameras, but those were stolen too.
Haley said security patrols will increase and volunteers will have to stay on the grounds overnight.
2019 marks the 125th year of the VIEX.
“It is a real fear for all of us that if this continues the fair may not be able to go on,” Haley said. “We don’t have $20,000 to be throwing around every few weeks.”
Adjacent rec facilities Stevie Smith Bike Park, Merle Logan Field and Beban Park Golf Course have also been hit by theft. Jason Michaud, golf course general manager, said $5,000 in damage was caused when a door lock and sliding glass doors were pried apart to steal a few dollars worth of beer, chocolate bars, potato chips and peanuts Tuesday night.
“They pulled the back of the deadbolt right through the steel door, so I can’t even put a new deadbolt on. They ruined it,” Michaud said.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said Nanaimo is getting hit hard with wire thefts in recent weeks. Police are working with salvage businesses to prevent purchases of potentially stolen metals.
“We have certain criminals who their MO is to steal wire because they’re very good at it,” O’Brien said. “They know how to defeat some systems.”
He said the city, B.C. Hydro and Telus have been upgrading anti-theft measures, but the trick is to stay a step ahead of the thieves, which for the public, includes being alert and reporting suspicious behaviour immediately.
“You’ve got to ask yourself, folks, if you see somebody at two or three or four in the morning standing around a lamp standard, why are they standing around a lamp standard?” O’Brien said. “That’s not where people congregate. If you see something like that there’s got to be a truck nearby because the wire is very heavy. Please, call it in immediately.”
He said in cases where a crime in progress is suspected during late night or early morning hours, call 911. During regular business hours for non-emergencies, such as providing information about suspicious or crime activity that has already occurred, people are asked to call the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or submit a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.