Three times in four days Sharat Chawla has shown up to his restaurant on Main Street to find damage from vandals.
The co-owner of Spice Magic said the rash of damage to the restaurant reflects a lack of support.
“I’m thinking of putting a formal complaint to the city and to the RCMP. I think there needs to be increased patrols in the downtown area. The city wants businesses to help revitalize downtown but how can any owner do that if we have to deal with vandalism,” said Chawla. “I feel like somebody has to take action. Someone has to take responsibility to make sure these areas are secure, not just the business owner.”
Chawla said he reported the incidents to RCMP and was told to install cameras, which comes at a cost to him, or he could also come after hours overnight to watch over his property.
“I don’t like that answer. I feel so discouraged with no support from anyone. I’m in the process of installing cameras, but I was also told by RCMP that is no guarantee the vandalism will stop or that someone would be caught because they can disguise their face,” said Chawla.
Chawla approached the Penticton Western News last week out of frustration when a recently built patio was damaged between the time he left his place of business on May 28. He hired contractors to fix the damage and returned to work on May 30, when it was to be inspected by the city, to find more overnight damage.
In addition to the patio mischief, Chawla said someone spray painted graffiti tags on the restaurant windows and appeared to have kicked the front door.
“The paint was scratched on the front door and it looked like they kicked it a few times. This was not at random, no drunk person has the mind or tools to just remove those screws from the post. All this damage is a liability issue for our business and we want to warn other businesses that this is happening,” said Chawla.
Hoping the vandalism would stop, having brought it to the RCMP and media’s attention, Chawla was disappointed Sunday morning when he found his patio damaged again. Planks had been forcefully removed and, from the photos he provided the Western, it appears the vandals tried to remove some of the bolts that anchor the patio posts.
RCMP said at this time they have to approach the vandalism as a crime of opportunity and not a targeted attack on the business.
“There is no evidence to suggest they are being targeted and the reason being is we haven’t caught anyone who did this. It is no different right now than the graffiti that has been an issue. It is a crime of opportunity and to say it is the same people doing this over and over is hard to say at this point,” said Sgt. Martin Trudeau. “I haven’t heard of any other businesses in the area that have been vandalized in that same time period, but that is not to say it hasn’t happened because people may not have reported it to RCMP.”
Mounties do have a plan in place to combat the graffiti issue that has plagued not only the downtown core business, but has been popping up over the city. Over the weekend the concession near the BMX track and baseball fields just off of Industrial Avenue, near Parkway School, were spray painted.
Trudeau said one of the RCMP priorities is to increase foot and bike patrols during the day so they are able to speak to business owners about their concerns directly and interact with the public. Still, Trudeau said it is a difficult task to completely eliminate crimes of opportunity.
“These things happen when no one is watching, just like graffiti and theft from a vehicle. With only so many members we can’t be everywhere at once,” said Trudeau.