The head of the local Business Improvement Association is hesitant to use the word epidemic, to describe the state of property crime in Maple ridge, but it is very much a concern to her.
Downtown business owners, she added, may differ in opinion.
However, that is what the president of Business Improvement Areas of British Columbia, Teri Smith, called what is happening on many downtown streets in the Vancouver-area and the agency is calling on municipal and provincial governments to offset those costs that have been saddled on local BIA’s.
And, Smith said, those costs are “substantial”.
Flori Chaykowski, executive director of the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, said her organization receives regular complaints about ongoing property crime and vandalism.
Within one week she received five different reports of windows smashed in the downtown core.
Then, of course, she said, graffiti is an ongoing problem.The BIA’s Core Area Patrol group will paint over graffiti on a business property as long as they can access it.
“Wherever we can cover or clean, we do,” she said. But, they struggle trying to keep up.
Occurrences of grafitti have doubled compared to the amount of cases reported last year.
For instance, in the month of October 2021, Chaykowski noted there were 52 reported cases of graffiti downtown Maple Ridge, and the BIA Core Area Patrol group managed to cover up or clean 26 of those.
This October there were 151 instances of graffiti discovered downtown, and the BIA covered up or cleaned 120.
To date this year, there have been 997 reported cases of graffiti discovered in the downtown, and the BIA have covered up or cleaned 612 of those markings.
Chaykowski noted the BIA has an agreement BC Hydro, as well as with business owners themselves, to supply paint and the BIA will provide the labour. However, the BIA still supplies paint to cover downtown graffiti, which so far has cost them “well over” $1,000.
“And that’s just paint alone. That doesn’t include labour,” noted Chaykowski, adding that the local BIA also pays for Community Patrol downtown.
They also fund programs businesses can access to improve safety surrounding their stores, like the Lock Out Crime Through Environmental Design program, LOCTED, where the BIA will provide up to 50 per cent of the cost of approved items to prevent vandalism and property crime like additional fencing or security cameras – up to $2,000.
“Anything that is for security, we will assess and if we can help cover that cost we will through the LOCTED program,” explained Chaykowski.
Smith said that while BIA’s have stepped in, they really need support from municipal and provincial governments.
“By not coming to the table, governments are in effect downloading these costs directly onto the backs of individual business owners whose viability is threatened as a result of current conditions,” said Smith, adding that in many cases, businesses can no longer access insurance, or they are paying out of pocket to keep their premiums from sky-rocketing any further – not to mention the emotional toll that the rampant crime and safety issues are having on business owners and their employees.
“They need a lifeline,” emphasized Smith.
Chaykowski agrees, saying that if the municipal or provincial government covered the costs of property crime downtown, then they could put their funds into making sure there is economic growth downtown.
If businesses keep funding property crime and vandalism, they won’t be able to survive, she said
“It’s a sustainability thing,” noted Chaykowski.
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