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‘It’s getting really bad out here’: Kelowna businesses concerned over recent thefts, vandalism

Businesses near the Landmark District are worried that the crime situation will only get worse
A number of windows at La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries on Spall Road were recently smashed by unknown assailants. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

Following a string of vandalism and theft-related crimes in the last few weeks, a number of businesses near Kelowna’s Landmark District are worried that the situation will only get worse.

Mike Hlushko, the owner and manager of Minit-Tune & Brake Auto Centres on Springfield Road, said that in his 20 years in Kelowna, the recent theft and vandalism in the area has been at an all-time high.

“My motorhome has probably been broken into three times this summer,” said Hlushko.

“That last one — we just camped the long weekend. We still had stuff in there, but they just ransacked the whole inside. It’s pretty hard on your personal life and property.”

The most recent theft saw thieves take a flat-screen TV and a memory foam mattress from his motor home, which he parked behind the auto shop. The fence surrounding the area had been cut, and Hlushko said that he suspects that those living on the margins of society are responsible for the crime.

“Society is all bleeding hearts for them. I’m sorry — once you get your personal stuff stolen and everything, it starts to get hard,” he said. “The police told me that their hands are tied. They do a bunch of paperwork and then they let them out the other side. They don’t have any money.”

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Around the corner is the Columbia Bottle Depot on Kent Road, which Hlushko said you’ll find people “strung out on drugs.”

“Every business on Spall Road probably deals with it. This whole area — it’s just terrible lately,” he said.

Down the street at the Sonic Wash Express on Springfield Road, HR administrator and trainer Karissa Bakowy said that attempts of break-ins at the carwash’s garbage bin have been the business’s most repetitive and frustrating crime.

“It’s been escalating. As far as I’ve noticed, they keep getting better tools to break in,” said Bakowy. “Now, we’ve got a secure, welded lock system on there, so hopefully they can’t get through now.”

As for why people are targeting the carwash’s garbage, she said she suspects that perpetrators think that there are valuable items discarded from vehicles after their wash.

“But they must be disappointed constantly because we don’t throw out any valuable items,” she said. “They’re clearly trying to get a few extra items, maybe make a few extra bucks.”

Down the street at La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries on Spall Road, the store’s windows were smashed by unknown assailants, while no thefts were reported. Right next door at ProSource Irrigation Supply, this business also had its windows vandalized.

“Somebody was throwing rocks over the other side of the fence,” said Travis Turner, the branch manager of Kelowna’s Pro Source location. “Took out six or seven of our windows. There were rocks scattered all throughout our store here, glass shattered everywhere.”

While no theft occurred, Turner said that he doesn’t know why his store or La-Z-Boy were targets of vandalism.

“I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again,” he said.

While he didn’t want to label those experiencing homelessness in the area as the culprits, he said that he has noticed an increase in homelessness activity.

“The homeless activity has been getting more and more noticeable, especially down this back alley,” he said. “Over the years, it’s been getting worse here and along the other side of the highway.”

He added that he’s also seen an increase in drug deals and violence in the area.

“Two weeks ago, I saw two guys over here. One was in a fetal position on the ground, the other guy was stomping on his head,” he said.

“One of our employees was walking out for lunch, and I heard someone yelling again. I looked up and he was being yelled at by a homeless guy across the street. It’s getting really bad out here.”

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