This is what greeted Okanagan Skate Co. owner-operator Steven Wach in downtown Vernon Saturday morning, after receiving a call from the RCMP that the store had been broken into. The fourth break-in at the store in four years at a couple of locations has Wach pondering his future in downtown Vernon. (Facebook - photo)

WATCH: Vernon skate shop closing due to crime

‘How can anyone stay downtown and economically do business?’ owner asks

Okanagan Skate Co. is closing its downtown Vernon storefront and heading online due to an uptick of crime in the core, owner Steven (Bryce) Wach said in a video he posted to Facebook.

The City of Vernon’s newly endorsed 2020 budget, however, invests in safety resources, including bylaw, police and fire services.

But, after experiencing several break-ins, a suspicious fire and losing more than $40,000 in merchandise in only five years, Wach said it’s time to close his doors.

“How can anyone stay downtown and economically do business when these are things that are happening?” Wach asked in his video.

He noted he’s not the only store on Main Street that’s experiencing trouble.

“The Royal Bank has pulled out, Birch Hill Studio has pulled out of downtown, the lady at Casa Bella has been assaulted inside her store,” he said. “People talk about being empathetic; what about being empathetic about the citizens and the people.”

READ MORE: Vernon board company victim of smash-and-grab

READ MORE: Drug offences up 81% in Vernon

“People aren’t coming downtown this Christmas because they’re scared,” he said. “There’s a stigma and whether it’s true or not, I can tell you from my experience things are bad and they’re getting worse.”

According to Vernon North Okanagan RCMP’s report, theft under $5,000 jumped 61.9 per cent in the third quarter, while thefts from vehicles remained essentially flat with a total of 197 incidents — two more incidents than the same quarter last year.

“Maybe if we pull our dollars out that’s the only way the City of Vernon will step forward and do something about all the dangerous stuff happening,” Wach said.

The City of Vernon is consistently taking steps to address the increased need for more security and safety measures in the downtown area.

“City council has made several investments within the 2020 budget to address safety and security,” communications manager Christy Poirier said. “Council has approved funding for the continuation of the Bylaw Compliance Seasonal Enforcement Program, Folks on Spokes — with an added education component — and the downtown cleanup program.”

“Funding for overnight season security was also approved,” she said.

The Downtown Vernon Association will also be receiving funds next year to run a grant program to assist with the installation of security cameras, Poirier said.

RCMP’s Downtown Enforcement Unit (DEU) also serves the downtown core and other vulnerable crime areas within the community. Officers, typically seen on foot or bicycle, provide a visible presence in the downtown area through proactive enforcement and targeted patrols.

“The City encourages all businesses in Vernon to take the necessary steps to help increase crime prevention and to contact the RCMP immediately if undesirable behaviour takes place,” she said. “It is important to file these incidents with the RCMP.”

Okanagan Skate Co. will be closed by the end of December 2019 and moving online. The skate shop is also seeking a new space in more of a joint-venture arrangement, Wach said in his post that’s been shared upwards of 95 times.

READ MORE: Police presence in downtown Vernon does more than deter crime

READ MORE: City of Vernon invests in safety, infrastructure, well-being in 2020 budget


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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Okanagan Skate Co. owner Steven Wach will be closing his store at the end of December 2019 in the wake of several break-ins and a suspicious fire, he said Dec. 18, 2019, in a video posted to Facebook. (Facebook)

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