Security guards are keeping an eye on the Jamaican Kitchen restaurant following two break-ins in six weeks at the North Kamloops eatery.
For the past month, Lapper Security has patrolled the ASK Wellness Society and ARPA Developments properties in the area of Tranquille Road, MacKenzie Avenue and Yew Street. After hearing of the recent vandalism and thefts from the restaurant at Tranquille and Yew, ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes offered to share the services with the restaurant’s owners.
Jamaican Kitchen co-owner Denese Metsimela told KTW she accepted the offer, but remains steadfast in her belief that people who access services at nearby ASK Wellness and The Loop drop-in centre are to blame for the crimes.
She said she came to that conclusion after spotting some of the restaurant’s stolen property at those locations.
Asked if he felt his clientele are responsible, Hughes noted it’s not known who committed the June 25 burglary and, if he did, he would “drag them kicking and screaming to the police.”
He said he visited the Jamaican Kitchen to make the offer, not because he feels his agency is responsible, but because he “felt terrible for them” as a neighbouring business.
Hughes said ASK Wellness and ARPA Investments hired Lapper a month ago to patrol the back alleyway between their properties due to a noticed increase in “social disorder and crime.”
ASK Wellness has an office at 433 Tranquille Rd. and clients in one of two apartment buildings ARPA erected behind the block in Spirit Square, on the south side of that alleyway.
The Loop, located on the same block as the apartments, is also offering its assistance to the North Kamloops restaurant.
“This is absolutely terrible ... we will do our utmost to help secure some justice for this hard-working family and business,” Glenn Hilke, who manages the centre, posted on social media.
Hike told KTW he inquired with the restaurant owners regarding any security footage they may have to try to identify whether the suspect(s) have frequented his drop-in centre. Denese told KTW the restaurant’s security system didn’t capture any images.
“If it is somebody who uses The Loop, then that person isn’t going to be able to use The Loop any more — period. Unless some sort of restorative justice happens,” Hilke told KTW.
He said The Loop wants to help out because the restaurant is a neighbouring business.
Restaurant owners Denese and Kamau Metsimela arrived for work on the morning of June 25 to find one of their glass doors had been smashed open and an iPad and empty cash pan stolen. Between the damages and items stolen, the couple is out about $900. On May 10, they found another glass door broken open and cash, booze and other items stolen.
Denese said they spotted one of the restaurant’s hanging plant baskets at The Loop and found people drinking their special order beer in the alley behind ASK Wellness following the first burglary, during which those items were taken.
Hike said the hanging plant belonged to the chef at The Loop, noting the plants at The Loop and at the Jamaican Kitchen were purchased at the same place. The group that was drinking the beer claimed to have bought it off another person and provided a description.
Hike said The Loop won’t tolerate people using their facility if they are stealing, noting staff have daily conversations with visitors to ensure they follow the rules and keep belongings organized because the facility is in a “fragile position” after being labelled a nuisance property by the City of Kamloops.
Hughes said he told the Metsimelas he has “no mercy” for property crime, noting ASK Wellness went through its own video surveillance footage in an attempt to find any relevant images for the RCMP to review.
“We are as equally frustrated by the level of crime — stolen bicycles — and issues that are outside the cope of what we’re able to provide,” Hughes said.
He said ASK Wellness tries to help in the event of criminal activity around its premises by co-operating with police and checking its security footage, but he added it is up to the courts to hold criminals responsible.
“When people commit crimes, whether it’s a crime of opportunity or feeding an addiction, people need to be held accountable for breaking the law,” Hughes said.
This second break-in at Jamaican Kitchen shows the need for the court system to take a greater interest when it comes to addressing people with drug addictions who are committing crimes with little consequences, Hughes said.
A city councillor’s view
The owners of Jamaican Kitchen said they felt let down over the issue of property crime, frustrated with a seeming lack of interest from city council and Kamloops RCMP.
Coun. Bill Sarai said he feels hurt the Metsimelas feel that way and believes city council is letting down business owners in Kamloops because elected officials don’t have a clear solution to property crime.
“I don’t want to see this happen to anybody,” Sarai said.
Sarai noted that each quarter, the RCMP gives council the same message — that the detachment is aware of property crime issues, but has hurdles when it comes to getting offenders prosecuted, detained and held to conditions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked what more council could be doing to address the issue, Sarai noted council already has security patrolling areas of the downtown and the North Shore until the community services department (the revamped bylaws services department) is fully staffed.
But, he said, like an RCMP officer, security officers can’t be everywhere at once.
“We can’t have a police officer at every corner. Our tax base just wont let us do that and I don’t think that will solve the problem,” Sarai said.
He does, however, hope the Kamloops RCMP can redirect resources to find extra members to conduct foot patrols in areas such as Victoria Street, Tranquille Road, Valleyview and Columbia Street.
“I think our business community really needs to see and feel that these individuals are not taking over the streets,” Sarai said.
He noted council has reached out to relevant provincial ministries regarding property crime and the issues that lead to it, but aren’t getting results.
Sarai said council needs to do more, but needs to know which door to knock on next.
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week