There has been a spike in the number of break-ins to businesses and shoplifting over the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said police have reported 73 break-ins in the past six weeks compared to just 33 files over the same time period in 2019. There were just 21 such crimes reported over that same span in 2018.
There have also been 117 reported incidents of shoplifting in the past six weeks, which is up from 106 in 2019 and 93 in 2018.
“The curious issue is most stores are closed, so this 117 is a much higher density of shoplifting,” Christian told KTW.
Those stats, Christian said, cover from about mid-March, when the pandemic began, to April 30.
Christian said the majority of the break-ins are at businesses that have either closed during COVID-19 or their degree of interaction with customers has decreased.
“That’s why they’re being targeted,” Christian said.
In having spoken with RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky, Christian said Kamloops’ top cop noted there is a segment of the population that realizes it is difficult to be apprehended and charged given the current situation — in which the pandemic has led to the closure of the Kamloops Law Courts, with virtual hearings in its place.
Christian said there is a sense among members of the public that thieves are more brazen due to the pandemic.
Kamloops RCMP have twice previously told KTW in the past few weeks that while there has been an uptick in property crime, it has nothing to do with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While police have downplayed the COVID-19 connection, Christian told KTW it is clear these crimes are occurring because the pandemic as it has created the circumstances in which businesses are being targeted.
“These are crimes of opportunity, these are crimes that are occurring because places are closed. There’s very few people on the street [because of COVID-19] and some of these are even repeat files,” Christian said, noting some businesses have had repairs following burglaries, only to be broken into again.
As mayor, Christian said he’s very concerned with respect to the property crime increase.
He said the police cannot be everywhere and advised proprietors of Kamloops businesses to ensure their respective establishments are secure.
“Make sure you’re using things like your security alarm system, your surveillance system, — don’t leave valuables in a vacant business,” he said. “Things — laptops, electronics, those kinds of quick turnover items — are the target of a lot of the thefts that are going on.”
Christian said thefts of and from motor vehicles are also a concern and advised the public to lock their vehicles and refrain from leaving valuables in them.
He said offences such as assault, aggravated assault and domestic violence calls have been “steady” compared to years past.
In the past six weeks, police have had 89 assault files, up from 82 over the same time last year, Christian said. There have been 19 reports of assault causing bodily harm compared to 22 in 2019, domestic violence calls have totalled 71, down from 72 last year, and there was one report of aggravated assault compared to none over the same six weeks last year.
“There really hasn’t been any noticeable uptake on person to person offences,” Christian said.