Stronger arm of the law needed downtown: merchants

Daniel MacEachern
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Work to deter crime lauded, but more officers required, businesses say

Water Street is lined with vehicles on a typical day. Businesses in the downtown have made it known they would like to see more police presence in the area, particularly in the evenings.  —  Telegram file photo

When the NaturaL Boutique was robbed last week by two men who calmly took a sealskin coat from a rack and simply ran out the door, a shop owner on the other end of Water Street could sympathize.

Andrew Corbett, owner of Maverick Sports and Collectables, had the same thing happen to him just a few days before. A person walked in the store, took a couple of hockey jerseys off the rack, and bolted out the door. There was a car waiting, and the thief left in the waiting car. Previously, someone broke in through the front window early one morning and made off with sets of sports cards.

Despite the thefts, Corbett said, he largely feels safe.

“There’s certainly a questionable element in the evening sometimes, but during the daytime, for the most part, it’s pretty safe down here,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of trouble. Where we’re a smaller space, I can kind of keep an eye on it.”

Police were able to recover the cards stolen in the break-in when they caught up with the burglar on Duckworth Street, but the jerseys taken in the daylight theft are gone. Corbett says the visible presence of police on the streets is enough to deter thefts.

“I like it in the summer where they’ve got even the police horse and the officer going along for show. Yes, it’s good for tourists, but it also has a little bit of a presence down here,” he said. “In my area down here, there’s always police over by Atlantic Place, with the courts. There probably could be a little bit more in the evenings, just a car going by once in a while.”

The co-owners of the NaturaL Boutique expressed concerns about police response time; the theft happened at 5:30 p.m. on April 24, and the RNC didn’t come to the store until 11 a.m. the next day. The RNC said calls are prioritized, and it was informed the manager of the store wasn’t returning until then. Co-owner Jennifer Shears told The Telegram she’s happy with the work that police officers do, but she worries they’re overworked and understaffed. That sentiment is shared by other downtown merchants.

Chris Andrews — who recently became co-owner of Erin’s Pub — said an increased presence is needed, especially on the weekends.

“It’s a changing city,” he said. “I do understand why it took so long for the police to get to that robbery, because there’s so many major things going on in the city now.It’s unfortunate that stuff like that gets put to the bottom of the pile.”

Andrews said he feels his business is secure — but due to his staff’s efforts.

“Pretty much, but only because we do make it ourselves. It’s not about being in ‘beautiful St. John’s’ anymore. It’s still beautiful, still gorgeous, but it’s changed, and if you’re not vigilant yourself…” he said.

“You’ve got to make sure you don’t keep a lot of cash on hand, and you’ve always got to have a couple people around. It’s a changing scene, for sure.”

Andrews said police do an excellent job with the resources they have.

“It’s not their fault. There’s just not enough of them to keep up with what’s going on,” he said.

David Bowden, owner of Post Espresso Bar, hasn’t been robbed in the year and a half his coffeeshop has been open. He’s seen glass broken in nearby shops, though, and despite sometimes feeling a little nervous about what he might find on a Sunday morning when he opens the shop, he feels secure downtown.

“I definitely feel very safe,” he said. “I think the community of shopkeepers, we all kind of try to keep an eye on each other, and it’s good to know what there’s people here in the nighttime. The restaurants are open a bit later than us, so I feel like they’ll keep an eye out for things.”

RNC deputy chief Bill Janes told The Telegram that significant provincial investment over the past decade has allowed the police

to respond to the needs of the community, and reiterated — in regards to the NaturaL Boutique robbery — police respond on a “priority basis.”

“We received a call at 5:30 and the store closed at 6,” he said. “We do do a review of these matters, and whenever there’s a complaint, people can go to the police complaints commission. And in cases like this, we’ll do a review of the file anyway to make sure we’re providing the service that we should.”

Janes said he’s confident police have sufficient resources to respond to the calls they receive every day.

“We also use an intelligence-led policing system, where we look at time of day, locations of crime, suspects of crime, and we direct our focus in those areas, rather than being reactionary all the time. We look at crime patterns and we try to focus on these areas and we’ve had a lot of success in that respect.”

Janes said he sympathizes with crime victims, but notes a Telegram survey last fall noted most respondents rated their satisfaction with police at seven out of 10 or higher.

“I think that survey that you guys did last October generally speaks to the fact that we still live in one of the best provinces in the country, one of the safest countries in the world. If you compare St. John’s to other cities in Canada, there are 90 cities in Canada with a population of 100,000 that have a higher violent crime rate than we do,” he said.

“So we still live in a wonderful place, a safe place.

“Unfortunately, we’re still going to have victims of crime that are going to feel that shock and anger and feeling unsafe afterwards, but I think it’s fair to say from the front-line perspective, the response perspective, that we have the resources to respond.”

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel


Organizations: Maverick Sports

Geographic location: Water Street, Duckworth Street, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Whaddaya At
    May 06, 2013 - 07:31

    It's only a matter of time before some drughead ahole is shot full of holes while trying to run out of a store with his/her arms full of clothes or jewelry. Until then, they know they can just walk into a store and help themselves. Try that crap in a lot of stores in the U.S. where storeowners have a couple of friends under the counter to deal with that. Messrs. Smith & Wesson.

  • Huskey
    May 04, 2013 - 08:09

    Lets put things into perspective. A headline reads something like store owner is upset because police took 18 hrs to respond. It didn't explain that the shop was just closing and that staff would be back in the morning. Now lets consider the time of day and type of crime. Late afternoon,early evening and a shoplifting call. I wonder what ppl would be saying if some hero cop had to race through the city to get downtown only to find that the closest he is coming to seeing this thief is on video; which is what was done the next day. Difference being they didn't risk the safey of themselves or others flying to a theft call. Ppl have to stop criticizing victims and the police and direct their negativity towards the ppl doing the crimes. IMO the police cannot be in every place all the time, and if ur not willing to get involved in one way or another then u have no credibility. By get involved I mean provide the police with descriptions, directions, plate numbers, whatever could help. If I saw some driver on a cell phone almost cause an accident I would call the police and have that driver ticketed.

  • MIKE
    May 02, 2013 - 21:35

    Come on Bill, a satisfaction survey done by the Telegram? Please! Not exactly a quotable piece. Did they focus on a specific group affected by crime in our city? Nope! Like retailers for example? Nope. Don't lump everyone in one study when it comes to crime and use it for every type of crime in the city. Geez. Maybe the RNC should reveal to the general public as to how much booze is walking out the door of our liquor stores with little to no consequence.

  • tom
    May 02, 2013 - 17:19

    Typical Newfoundland - blame the victim. Owners should do more blah blah blah. How about the fact that criminals are brave enough to do this in the middle of the afternoon knowing the chance of getting caught by the keystone cops is nil. I see no cars pulled over, counted SIX people in a row on cell phones at Torbay RD/NL Drive intersection and the ONE blitz they did netted hundreds of tickets and they never did another one! I honestly have zero idea what these guys are doing anymore. They are a disgrace to policing.

  • Justice for ALL
    May 02, 2013 - 14:43

    I sympathize with the shop owners to a point, that point being that the rest of us are just as much entitled to effective policing as they are. If the shop owners want something above and beyond status quo, maybe they should band together and hire a security firm to perform patrols and enhance security.

  • Nope
    May 02, 2013 - 11:57

    "When it takes 15 to 20 hours to respond to theft or break in something is amiss," No, sorry, it's not. Go to ANY major city in North America. A police car won't be screaming over town because someone ran out of a store with a jacket. Even if a police showed up there within 10 minutes, the people who got away with the jacket are long gone. One sole police officer driving around isn't going to find them. Did the store have surveillance video? No. They weren't hooded, so I'm guessing that if the store owner wanted to be serious about catching them, they would have done so.

    • Yep
      May 02, 2013 - 14:50

      Er, yeah they did have video. It's what we all saw on the news. D'oh.

    • tom
      May 02, 2013 - 17:25

      @Nope - newsflash - we are from from a MAJOR city in North America! Our entire population of NL and Lab is 300,000 ppl less than the city of Mississauga! Gimme a break. We are a small city and with that is supposed to be security - from theft, assaults and sexual assaults. RNC is no deterrent to bad drivers, petty thieves or drug dealers. But grandiose people like yourself say that is fine because that is how it is in say, Toronto?? Give your head a shake.

  • saelcove
    May 02, 2013 - 10:22

    When it takes 15 to 20 hours to respond to theft or break in something is amiss,

  • victim of crime
    May 02, 2013 - 10:05

    WRONG, stronger arm of the law not needed. whats needed is a tougher justice system to deal with the punks once they are caught. time to bring back some serious sentences, instead of house arrest, probations, and so on. BUT wait a minute, keep voting for those hug-a-thug liberal/ndp mp's who are soft on crime, who watered down the crime bills in committees and who put criminals rights ahead of victims, all thanks to that 1982 phoney as a three dollar bill document called: "THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS & FREEDOMS"

    • Wild Rose
      May 02, 2013 - 11:43

      I agree with you 110% The charter of rights and freedoms should be thrown out becuase it gives to many rights to the people who deserve it the least. If the store owners were armed there would be a lot less crime and a lot fewer sumbag criminals. Our American friends / allies know how to fight crime and it isnt slaps on the rists from liberals!

  • WIlliam
    May 02, 2013 - 09:44

    As a shop owner I am concerned not only with the crime but the amount of graffiti that is spoiling the downtown area. It is worse than it ever has been.

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    May 02, 2013 - 08:45

    Some shop owners themselves have to be more proactive in theft prevention. You simply cannot put thousands of dollars on inventory on a simple coat hanger with no security provisions. Unfortunately a lone staff member and a video camera is not adequate security in this day and age.

  • paddyjoe
    May 02, 2013 - 08:16

    I don't understand why we don't have at least a couple of cops patrolling the Downtown on foot. Beat cops would act as a deterrent to petty crime and would instill a sense of safety and security------not to mention building rapport between the Police and the people they serve.

  • More cops help
    May 02, 2013 - 07:46

    While I do have a small bit of sympathy for these business owners, g.e.t. o.v.e.r. y.o.u.r.s.e.l.f. You want a stronger police presence so your products,which should be insured, are not robbed, while drunk drivers, drug dealers and assaults are happening. Self-involved elitists, that crowd at "Natural Boutique."