Thieves are taking advantage of fewer people on the street to witness crimes of opportunity, which are on the rise in Nanaimo, say police. (News Bulletin file photo)

Thieves taking advantage of empty streets, say Nanaimo RCMP

Police offer crime prevention reminders during COVID-19 pandemic

Police in Nanaimo are asking business owners and residents to be play a role in curtailing crime during the coronavirus crisis.

According to Nanaimo RCMP, in recent weeks police have seen an increase in thefts from vehicles, commercial break-ins and other forms of theft.

Posts in social media groups about cars being broken into at local parks and on Nanaimo streets back up what police are reporting. Businesses are being broken into for cash and merchandise, they say.

“It’s not surprising we’re seeing crimes of opportunity. We’re seeing smash-and-grabs where thieves are taking advantage of a number of parked cars,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “One would think, because people are at home, there would be less theft from vehicles.”

But, because people are preoccupied with what they are doing inside their homes while self-isolating, they’re not paying attention to what is going on outside, O’Brien said. Police recommend all valuables be removed from vehicles and doors locked when parked overnight and for owners to check them before going to bed at night.

With fewer people out in public areas to witness and report incidents there is more chance for crimes of opportunity, such as an incident that occurred overnight Tuesday when a male suspect, dressed all in black, smashed the front door of the Easyhome furniture store at University Village Mall in Harewood. Security cameras recorded the suspect smash the glass to the front door of the business by throwing a large object at it, but leave without gaining entry.

Businesses should remove all valuable merchandise from display windows, ensure no cash is left on site and that alarms are working properly, say RCMP. Police are patrolling and paying attention to areas with boarded-up businesses, O’Brien said, but they’re counting on awareness from the public, too.

“People need to help with the problem,” he said. “We’re asking that they check on their vehicles at night before they retire – make sure all valuables are removed and doors are locked – and scan their neighbourhoods. Just do a once-over to see if there’s anything suspicious moving. If you see something that concerns you, keep an eye on it and if it’s enough that you think it requires police involvement, call us.”

READ ALSO: Nanaimo first responders salute health-care workers during COVID-19 pandemic

READ ALSO: Stay informed about COVID-19
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