Vancouver police say there's been an increase in thefts from commercial spaces in the last week as businesses closed down to stem the spread of COVID-19.
In the week between March 16-24, there were 81 commercial break-ins reported to the Vancouver Police Department. For comparison, in the two weeks leading up to March 16, there were 86 commercial break-ins.
Commercial break-ins are spiking, but overall property crime, which includes break-ins to residential as well as commercial properties, has decreased by 12 per cent compared to the weeks leading up to the pandemic.
Police say they are staying vigilant amid business closures.
"It appears thieves are attempting to take advantage of commercial spaces that are closed due to social distancing measures," said VPD Chief Adam Palmer in a Thursday news release.
On March 16, the City of Vancouver announced a one-day closure for all downtown bars and restaurants for St. Patrick's Day. A day later, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order saying any establishment that couldn't enforce physical distancing measures of two metres between customers had to close indefinitely.
The VPD says it is deploying more overnight patrol officers and community safety personnel near hot spots in the city, like downtown where there were 35 break and enters in the last week.
The department says property crime detectives are also investigating known offenders.
"Overall, we have seen a reduction in calls for service for police over the last couple of weeks, and we will be ready to respond if this changes," said Palmer in the news release.
Since March 12, the number of daily calls to the VPD has declined by an average of 10 per cent.
Vancouver police are encouraging businesses to take additional security measures including:
- Moving merchandise away from windows and out of view.
- Using window shutters to minimize damage and reduce visibility.
- Upgrading locks.
- Increasing outdoor lighting levels to ensure the space around your business is visible and well-lit.