July 25, 2024

KT Business

The Business Servicess On for You

Business owners say property crime on the rise despite RCMP numbers

7 min read

After a recent surge in commercial thefts in the area, business owners are speaking out about the rise in occurrences and other impacts of property crime

BOYLE — After a recent surge of commercial and private property crime in Boyle and Athabasca area in late May and early June, RCMP have said break and enter levels in 2024 are comparable to the first six months of 2023.

But owners of two businesses hit in the middle of the night don’t agree with the numbers and are adamant the justice system needs turn course.

“There has to be changes,” said an impassioned Ryan Burchby, owner of Kal Tire Athabasca. “(These thieves) are absolutely running amok, doing as they please, and as this gets worse and worse, business owners and property owners like myself are getting more and frustrated and more and more angry.”

On the morning of Saturday, May 27, Burchby arrived at his business to see his chain link gate flattened on the ground and noticed a blue F350 Ford truck missing from the yard. Athabasca RCMP recovered the truck, but Burchby said the damages to his gate total $10,000.

Property crime is not a new issue for Burchby. The owner said since he purchased the business in 2007, he’s been dealing with break-ins and theft, but noted an increase in activity.

“It’s been really, really bad here the last two to three weeks,” said Burchby.

Since the May 27 incident, Kal Tire Athabasca has been broken into multiple times. The most recent incident, at the time of publication, was the June 13 theft of a Ram 3500 truck. Burchby noted his business is far from the only one with problems in the industrial area—he said several other yards and a construction crew completing repairs in the area had been hit multiple times.

Grassland’s GTS Powersports was another business hit in the early morning hours of June 1. In a Facebook post about the theft, the business noted multiple Dewalt tools, including blowers, chainsaws, were stolen along yard maintenance equipment and even a Cub Cadet push mower were taken.

“With the damage and the theft, it’ll be approximately a $10,000 loss,” said owner Colin Derko in a June 13 interview.

He added unlike Burchby, GTS Powersports has been relatively unscathed by property crime in the last five years.

“It costs us a lot of money to secure our place to make it more difficult than other places,” he said. “It’s a sad world, but if they want it, they’re gonna come and take it.”

In addition to the late May incidents in Athabasca and Grassland, Boyle RCMP detachment commander Dennis Properzi said three businesses in Boyle were hit as part of a spree on June 5.

The Boyle Arena and Curling Rink was broken into, as was a village-owned property downtown, and a business in the Aurora Centre, a small multi-business property on Main Street, incidents the Boyle RCMP believe are related.

“It seems for the time proximately and being in a small area, they’re not separate,” said Properzi in a June 10 interview. “The time frame fits, and some of the entry points that were used were similar, where people are just looking for a weakness in the property.”

RCMP recommend utilizing tips from their Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED, program to prevent property crime, including ensuring properties are well lit, gates and entrances are locked, and installing video surveillance and alarm systems to aid in timely response to incidents.

Numbers not reconciling

In a June 10 press release, Cpl. Mathew Howell noted levels of property crime for both the Boyle and Athabasca detachment areas between January and June are comparable to the same time period last year, and in some cases, decreasing.

For the Boyle detachment area, Properzi said 2024 has seen approximately 30 break and enters, a figure he calls on par with rates in 2023.

“I’m not alarmed,”  said Properzi. “The value of items that may have been taken are not serious amounts —  I’m not going to say nothing isn’t serious, but with the warmer weather, people are going to be travelling more, people are going to be on foot late at night.”

But both Burchby and Derko said the statement that property crime rates have remained stable in 2024 doesn’t reconcile with them.

“We’re so sick to death of it happening, I’ll bet more than 50 per cent of the incidences are not even reported anymore. It’s just not worth our time,” said Burchby. “It’s frustrating. You spend all this time writing statements, wasting your day putting a little bit of hope into something, and nothing ever happens.”

He said he reported only one of the three break-and-enters that occurred since May 27 to police and added that he’s taken to patrolling his property and reacting to break-ins detected by his surveillance system himself.

“There’s a lot of times I’ve been here within 15 minutes of the alarm going off and chase somebody out of here,” he said. “I don’t know that I could do anything else besides sit by my phone and, when it goes off, you drop everything and go in.”

“I feel that it’s rising, and my personal opinion is I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it yet,” said Derko.

He tied the rise in property crime to the downturn in the economy, noting businesses don’t have the money to hire more staff, meaning more individuals in rural settings are on their own when it comes to finding income.

“These guys will get their money, and you and I would probably do the same damn thing because the other alternative is to lay down and die,” he said.

RCMP not to blame

Despite both business owner’s frustrations, Burchby and Derko expressed their support of the men and women in uniform in both the Athabasca and Boyle areas.

“It’s not that I’m sitting here bashing the RCMP or that I even have any ill will toward the RCMP,” said Burchby. “I can’t imagine their frustration when they put the time and effort in and go above and beyond and finally put one of these meatheads behind bars, and they get in front of a judge and they’re in and out.”

Derko echoed Burchby’s sentiment, and said the problem lies within the justice system rather than the officers on the ground.

“It’s frustrating because we need to find a way to the get the system working for us, because it’s sure not working for us right now,” said Derko.

Burchby called for change within the legislation that would see repeat offenders given more serious punishments for acts that not only damage businesses, but livelihoods as well.

“I’m so tired of hearing people say, ‘Well is your property really worth somebodies’ lives?’ That question needs to be reversed to the criminals that are creating this issue, are their lives really worth what they’re stealing?” said Burchby. “The onus should not always come back on us.”

For Burchby, Derko, and other business owners, the price of property crime does not stop at the cost of stolen merchandise or destroyed infrastructure. More theft claims on insurance policies mean higher premiums and, in some cases, a lack of coverage altogether.

“There’s businesses down this road that their insurance companies don’t want to insure them anymore because their loss is so great, and I can’t blame the insurance companies one bit,” said Burchby.

“Eventually, if it keeps happening and you keep making these claims, insurance companies will just drop you, and then what do you do now?” said Derko. “You either close your doors or choose to go without insurance.”

But even more than financial impacts, business owners like Burchby and Derko said their lives outside of work are suffering.

“You feel violated, first of all,” said Derko, who noted on top of the $10,000 price tag for damages and missing items at GTS Powersports, he has spent upwards of $40,000 installing upgraded security systems at his private residences.

“Mentally, financially, it does affect your day-to-day life,” he added. “Something needs to be done, what we’re doing is not working. It is very, very frustrating and disheartening that that’s what we have to do.”

For Burchby, the personal implications are similar. “You’re always worried about where you are and the distance from your business so that you can respond to an incident, it takes time away from your family.”

“I spent 12 to 14 hours a day here as it is, I don’t need to be coming back at two in the morning to chase somebody out of my yard,” he added.

While Derko, Burchby, and the RCMP do not have immediate solutions to halt property crime in its tracks, business owners have said changes are needed, and the sooner, the better.

“Some people have chalked it up as part of doing business. Well no, that’s not acceptable. That’s not an acceptable answer or solution,” said Derko.

“That’s not part of doing business — theft is not part of life, it should not be part of it, we should not accept it.”


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