If furniture store owner David Screech thought he’d seen it all, a full-size fire set up in his building a few Sundays ago was a novelty.
And last month, employee Glenn Drew had his car window smashed and a knife pointed at him after he confronted the suspect.
“He turned around and he only had a knife and it was like getting out, so I backed up and he ran down Government Street,” said Drew.
But it was something that happened earlier this week that Screech is seriously considering moving after nearly 70 years of doing business in the city.
“We had a guy come into the store who was very vocal, physically threatening, yelling at us, banging on our windows and I was here alone and it made me feel extremely vulnerable,” said Screech, owner of Gregg’s Furniture and Upholstery on Government Street.
The former mayor of View Royal says the problem is getting worse, leaving his employees and customers feeling uneasy.
“It’s a state of lawlessness, right? It’s the vandalism of our trucks, the theft and the police can’t keep up,” Screech said.
And he’s not alone, he’s heard of other businesses in the area and downtown that are reaching the limit.
“I spoke to a big retailer, I won’t say who it is, they lock their doors now, if you are a customer, they have to open the door for you because their employees are not safe, they don’t ‘feel’ unsafe, they are insecure ,” said Jeff Bray, CEO of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
While the business community is optimistic Prime Minister David Eby’s plan to tackle crime and homelessness will make a difference in the long term, they say the city of Victoria’s action can happen now.
“The city can start taking action by saying we’re not going to tolerate drug use on our streets, we’re not going to tolerate camping, they’re not allowed, and we’re going to enforce that,” Bray said.
Victoria’s new mayor says she’s on it.
“I think we can certainly increase the response time that we have, we can increase the number of responses that we have, we can be a little bit more vigilant, we do more of what we’re doing now,” Mayor Marianne Alto said.
“We’re having deep conversations with a number of partners about what we can do, so hold on, we’re coming after you and we’re doing everything we can as quickly as possible.”
After decades in town, Screech says his lease ends next year, and without major changes, it might be time for Gregg’s Furniture to move on.
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