A series of break-ins continues to plague Mission’s downtown core as six businesses were reportedly hit in the past 10 days.
In January, the Mission Downtown Business Association (MDBA) reported that 19 stores had been targeted over a four-month period.
The crime spree has some business owners scrambling to improve their security systems.
Tami Klassen, owner of Magnolias on Main, had her business burglarized on Feb. 16. Thieves came in through a window in the building behind her store and then broke through a wall in order to climb into the flower shop.
When she came to work in the morning, Klassen noticed that there were papers all over the floor. She initially thought there was a rat roaming about. But when she turned on the lights, she realized she had been robbed.
“I could see that both the tills were open and just mayhem, paper everywhere, phone off the hook. It was awful.”
She immediately called 911 and was told to get out of the store.
“They could have still been in there.”
It was the first time she had ever been robbed and Klassen described the experience as creepy and terrifying.
“It changes the dynamics of everything. It was like they smashed a hole in my back wall and sucked the life out of my store,” said Klassen.
As the police investigated the scene, it was discovered that Klassen’s master key had also been stolen. Fortunately, officers discovered it close by, hidden under a leaf and a piece of glass.
Klassen is now in the process of changing all the locks, repairing the walls and getting a new security system. It is going to cost the local business owner thousands, not to mention the full day of business she lost.
Along with the financial hit, Klassen suffered an emotional jolt as well. She said she couldn’t go back to work for two days and is still feeling a little “unsafe.”
MDBA president Carlo Billinger said businesses are frustrated by the break-ins and the criminals’ apparent lack of fear.
“Is the fact they don’t have any fear about it because if they get caught they get two weeks put away and that’s it?”
Billinger believes the crimes are being committed by the same person(s).
“It has to be the same person. I don’t believe for a second that it’s not. The MO that they are using makes it sound like it’s the same person or persons, and it’s so hard for me to fathom that we can’t figure out who this is.”
Billinger thinks police need to look beyond Mission’s borders for answers.
“These people didn’t just appear in Mission. Are we talking to other areas? Surrey? Abbotsford? Maple Ridge?”
Until the suspect is apprehended, Billinger wants to remind businesses to keep their lights on during the evenings and to make sure the business has a good security system.
“Probably your home is alarmed and your car is alarmed, so make sure your business is alarmed,” he said.
Mission RCMP continue to investigate the break-ins.
Staff Sgt. Rob Dixon said they are likely related to previous events and police have a suspect in mind.
“We can’t say for sure that it’s isolated to one person,” said Dixon, adding they are doing their best to “get who we believe to be involved in these into custody.”
He said he understands how frustrating it is for businesses.
Anyone who sees anything suspicious should call police immediately, he added.