ALMOST 40% OF BUSINESSES SAY THEY MAY NOT SURVIVE ANOTHER TWO YEARS
IF STREET DISORDER AND PROPERTY CRIME EPIDEMIC CONTINUES

 

For Immediate Release
November 29, 2022

 

Vancouver, BC – Businesses that are under siege by the epidemic of street disorder and property crime are sounding the alarm, suggested if the current situation is allowed to continue, as many as 40% face the prospect of closing over the next two years.

The findings are contained in a survey of more than 500 businesses in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, and Victoria about the impact of street disorder and crime – and was conducted between October 24 and November 10.

  • When asked to rank key issues of concern, 35% of businesses cite property crime and vandalism, 32% highlight homelessness and/or encampments as a key concern, followed by drug-related activity (17%) and violence and aggression (10%).
  • When asked to rank how these issues of concern are impacting their business, almost 33% cited an increase in fear and anxiety at the top of the list, while 33% also report a loss of customers and street traffic/decreased revenue. Other key impacts include increased expenses associated with crime and vandalism (25%) and loss of employees/hiring challenges (8%).
  • When asked if conditions regarding public safety and crime persist, what is the time frame the business can remain viable or continue operating successfully, almost 17% responded less than one year – a further 22% suggested two years.

“The fact that almost 40% of respondents indicate if the present conditions don’t change in the next two years, that they may not be able to continue operating successfully or remain viable, underlines that we have a crisis on our hands,” says Teri Smith, President of BIABC. “Businesses are waiting for our elected leaders to answer their call for urgent and collective action to deal with the untenable street issues and crime plaguing businesses in communities across the province.”

In September, members of Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) launched an urgent appeal to all three levels of government to deal with untenable street issues and crime plaguing communities across the province.

About the Business Improvement Areas of British Columbia:

Formed in 1991 to assist and promote the BIA movement in British Columbia, Business Improvement Areas of British Columbia (BIABC) is the provincial champion of strong, vibrant, and successful downtowns, main streets, and commercial districts throughout our province.

Our members together represent more than 70 business districts that employ hundreds of thousands of retail, service, and office employees within their defined business districts. Mostly small- and medium-sized businesses, they are part of maintaining your community’s excellence and highest quality of livability.

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Business Improvement Associations Call on Local & Provincial Governments for
Financial Support to Address Property Crime Epidemic

 

For Immediate Release
November 8, 2022

The Business Improvement Areas of British Columbia (BIABC) reports that property crime and vandalism in downtowns and main streets have reached epidemic proportions and are calling on municipal and provincial governments to help offset the substantial costs.

In recent weeks, media have profiled the introduction of business security grant programs by Vancouver-area BIAs to directly assist their member businesses with the impacts of smashed windows and other forms of property crime, as well as enhancing their overall business security protocols - but this funding allocation, which is estimated at around $200,000, is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are 22 BIAs within the City of Vancouver and collectively, they invest $16.5 million to brand, promote, and revitalize their respective business districts on behalf of their member businesses and property owners. Approximately $4 million, representing 25% of the total funding, supports a variety of clean and safe initiatives, such as daily security patrols and micro-cleaning, community policing partnerships, anti-graffiti measures, and grants. This figure has continued to increase significantly, year over year. The more that is spent on efforts to keep commercial streets clean and safe, the less that can be contributed to other economic development programs.

“While BIAs have stepped in, what we really need is our municipal and provincial governments to step up and help support our business communities,” says Teri Smith, President of BIABC. “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.”

“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. And that doesn’t even touch upon the emotional toll that the rampant crime and safety issues are having on business owners and their employees. They need a lifeline”, emphasized Smith.

Similar to pandemic grant relief programs, local and provincial governments should be developing and implementing funding assistance programs to mitigate street level issues and to support commercial victims of crime. A recent Vancouver example was the approval of graffiti abatement grant funding in the amount of $500,000 provided to the Vancouver BIAs to assist with the citywide impacts of increasing graffiti. The City of Victoria also provided funding to the Downtown Victoria Business Association to create a Security and Vandalism Grant, which enabled businesses or property owners to enhance their security through various means, such as installation of security systems or anti-shatter window film.

This September, members of Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) launched an urgent appeal to all three levels of government to deal with untenable street issues and crime plaguing communities across the province. More information about the appeal can be found here: https://bia.bc.ca/index.php?area_id=1003&page_id=1104

About the Business Improvement Areas of British Columbia:

Formed in 1991 to assist and promote the BIA movement in British Columbia, Business Improvement Areas of British Columbia (BIABC) is the provincial champion of strong, vibrant and successful downtowns, main streets and commercial districts throughout our province.

Our members together represent more than 70 business districts that employ hundreds of thousands of retail, service and office employees within their defined business districts. Mostly small- and medium-sized businesses, they are part of maintaining your community’s excellence and highest quality of livability.

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Contact:

Teri Smith
President – BIABC
604-518-8814 or 604-696-0144
t.smith@westendbia.com

Patricia Barnes
Advocacy Chair – BIABC
604-862-9637
patricia@eastvillagevancouver.ca  

 

An open letter to our elected (and soon to be elected municipal) leaders

October 13, 2022

In other parts of the world, people are fighting to retain their democratic rights, but in BC we have the power to effect positive change at the ballot box.

In this province, not a day goes by when public safety, violence, property crime and vandalism in our downtowns and main streets aren’t at the forefront of the news headlines – and with only days until municipal elections take place, the onus is on voters to research where candidates stand on these matters and demand commitments that will lead to positive action.

 

Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) represents more than 70 business districts, which collectively encompasses tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses that employ hundreds of thousands of people across this province. Together, we are gravely concerned that these public safety issues have reached the tipping point, not just in Vancouver but across the province - in communities like Langley, Abbotsford, and Surrey – on Vancouver Island – and in Northern and Interior centres like Prince George, Quesnel, Kamloops, Kelowna, and Penticton, among others.

We understand this is a complex problem and there is no single solution. And it’s for that very reason that all three levels of government need to work in collaboration to develop a comprehensive plan and tackle these issues as a matter of urgency.

 

At the municipal level, BIABC is challenging all candidates in the October civic elections to make a commitment to support core funding that will mitigate main street issues through increased policing resources, street lighting, sanitation, and anti-graffiti programs, as well as stronger bylaw enforcement.

At the provincial level, BIABC recommends the creation of a Special Committee on Public Safety to create and advance a plan that will support individuals dealing with mental health, addictions and/or homelessness, as well as examine alternative justice options, identify short, medium and longer-term measures to address the issue of prolific offenders, and an increase to police resources. Additionally, there is an immediate need for implementation of assistance programs for victims of commercial crime, and improvement to the crime reporting process and response through E-COMM.

At the federal level, BIABC is advocating for the establishment of an all-party committee on Downtowns and Main Streets.

This is time for our elected representatives within all three levels of government to put people and our communities first. This is a collective crisis, and we need a collective response from our elected (and soon to be elected municipal) leaders.

Teri Smith – President
Business Improvement Areas of BC

Sample Media Coverage:

Global BC Morning Show - October 15

BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATIONS CALL FOR ACTION

TO ADDRESS STREET DISORDER AND CRIME IN COMMUNITIES ACROSS BC

For Immediate Release
September 12, 2022

Members of Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) are today calling for urgent action from all three levels of government to deal with untenable street issues and crime plaguing communities across the province.

“We recognize there is a vulnerable population that suffers from addiction, mental health and homelessness in this province – and there is no disputing the need for our elected leaders to address those issues as a matter of urgency,” says Teri Smith, President of BIABC. “However, there is an immediate need to advocate for small business owners, their employees, and the communities they serve that are also being drastically impacted.”

While the issue of crime and public safety may be viewed by some as a Vancouver problem, it is clearly not, becoming increasingly prevalent in Fraser Valley communities like Langley, Abbotsford, and Surrey – On Vancouver Island – and in Interior and Northern centres like Prince George, Quesnel, Kamloops, Kelowna, and Penticton – among others.

“This is a collective crisis, and we need a collective response” says Smith, who is advocating for action by all three levels of government.

At the municipal level, BIABC is challenging all mayoral and council candidates in the October civic elections to make a commitment to support core funding that will mitigate main street issues through increased policing resources, street lighting, sanitation, and anti-graffiti programs, as well as stronger bylaw enforcement.

At the provincial level, BIABC is recommending a concerted plan to support individuals dealing with mental health, addictions and/or homelessness, actions to address the issue of prolific offenders, an examination of alternative justice options, increased police resources, implementation of assistance programs for victims of commercial crime, and improvement of the crime reporting process and response through E-COMM.

At the federal level, BIABC is advocating for the establishment of an all-party committee on Downtowns and Main Streets.

“Above all, we need a bi-partisan approach to this complex issue that is having a detrimental impact on us all, says Patricia Barnes, Advocacy Chair for BIABC. “Simply talking about these issues and deflecting to other levels of government is getting us nowhere.”

BIABC is also seeking a seat at the table and to be part of the solution. As local grassroots organizations, BIA’s hold specialized knowledge and insight, as well as unique partnerships in community that may help challenge assumptions and generate out-of-the box solutions for all.  

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Contact:

Teri Smith
President – BIABC
604-518-8814 or 604-696-0144
t.smith@westendbia.com

Patricia Barnes
Advocacy Chair – BIABC
604-862-9637
patricia@eastvillagevancouver.ca  

 

Release of Butler-LePard Report on Repeat Offending

On September 21 the provincial government released the Executive Summary and Recommendations from "A Rapid Investigation into Repeat Offending and Random Stranger Violence in British Columbia." The full report is expected by the end of September.


Quotes:

Jeremy Heighton – Executive Director, North Shore Kamloops BIA  -

“Perception of public safety is the foundation upon which all economic development, community events, arts and cultural activities depend. The current situation is impacting employee morale, creating attraction challenges, losses due to theft and vandalism, and community safety concerns related to social disruptions. Small business owners contribute the vast majority of GDP to this province, but the current situation threatens their success across the province, and we require action to support business.”  

Mark Burley – Executive Director, Downtown Kelowna Association  -

“The increase in demand for the Downtown Kelowna Association’s (DKA) On Street services continue to grow at an alarming rate. Our Downtown On-Call is experiencing unprecedented call volume from our member businesses and visitors to Downtown Kelowna to deal with individuals with drug and mental health issues. Our Clean Team is constantly cleaning, as the street population move from space to space, and escalating crime affects businesses via theft, break-and-enters and broken street facing windows. Most alarming and frustrating, is the rate of repeat break-ins and incidents performed by repeat offenders.” 

Nolan Marshall – President and CEO, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association  -

“Downtown Vancouver is one of the most economically diverse and vibrant communities in North America. The urgent priority of the more than 7 thousand business owners, 100 thousand residents, and 11 million tourists that make Downtown the intersection of commerce and culture, is that we focus our attention on being one of the safest communities in North America. We stand ready to partner with community leaders and officials at all levels of government to quickly identify investments and policies that will have a real and immediate impact in achieving that goal."

Colleen Van Mook – Executive Director, Downtown Prince George (Association)  -

“Downtown Prince George joins our Business Improvement Areas of BC colleagues in seeking the support of all levels of government to work together to make our downtown and every downtown in our country better. The negative impact of crime and concerns for public safety is becoming more dire every day. Our property owners are losing tenants; our businesses are losing customers and staff; and both are faced with increased costs to either prevent vandalism or remediate vandalism. The well-being of downtown and all its citizens must become a priority for collective action and community-oriented solutions.”

Annette O’Shea – Executive Director, Yaletown Business Improvement Association  -

"This is not a new problem, but rather a problem that has been kicked down the road by successive governments and now it has reached its breaking point. All of our communities are impacted by these deteriorating conditions and all of our communities have tried to cope. We've stepped up and have stepped up for years. The small business community actively supports crisis intervention, manages cleaning crews, safety patrols and anti-graffiti teams on a daily basis, trying to keep our main streets clean, safe, and inviting. This daily defense is exhausting and is not creating any meaningful change. We need all levels of government to work together to develop immediate solutions to this long-term problem. Our cities are in crisis, and our governments need to respond."

Jeff Bray - Executive Director, Downtown Victoria Business Association  -

“Street disorder, open drug use, and mental health challenges have all been identified as the number one issue affecting our businesses in downtown Victoria. The negative impact on our economy, sense of safety among employees and customers, and the severe damage to our reputation are all reaching crisis levels. We need to admit that the current strategies are not working.”

Walley Wargolet - Executive Director, Gastown Business Improvement Society –

“The erosion of social contracts is evident everywhere you look, with broken windows that lead to boarded up windows, graffiti stamped everywhere on both public and private buildings and spaces, and prolific shoplifters caught, released, and caught again all in the same day. The cost for much of these actions falls directly on the business community, and many of them barely survived COVID with others who did, now forced to close because they cannot meet this added burden. To effect real change and address the homelessness, addiction and mental health issues facing our communities, there must be a regional strategy led by the province with cooperation from all municipal governments throughout BC. Allowing individual cities to carry the burden on their own must stop now, and a more collaborative approach in helping people in the communities they were raised must be implemented.”

Howie Reimer – Executive Director, Downtown Kamloops Business Improvement Association  - 

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy but many are failing or under threat of doing so in part because of violence, vandalism and other social disruption. It's time for governments to act. Please address the concerns of BIABC and work multilaterally to expedite and implement solutions."

Muneesh Sharma – Executive Director, Robson Street Business Association –

“For too long, our elected officials have talked about the need to address important issues that are having a devastating impact on our streets, businesses, and communities as a whole - without a concerted plan or tangible results. It’s time for some real action.”

Rania Hatz - Executive Director, Cambie Village Business Association –

“Crimes, such as smashed windows for no reason are not victimless crimes. Currently there is no accountability for repeat offenders, so they repeat their actions. The cost is absorbed by small business owners and property owners who are unable to continue at this rate.”

Karen Beaubier - Executive Director, Uptown Rutland Business Association  -

“Our mission statement is to ‘attract and expand development, business and prosperity with pride and purpose’ but the current environment makes fulfilling our mandate very challenging – and business owners are frustrated. Systemic changes to the justice system need to happen as soon as possible. Yes, that’s a big ask, but it’s important when small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of BC’s economy that continue to sustain added costs while surviving a pandemic. Having to think about maintaining employee safety and extra security measures are added stresses that are happening on a daily basis in every community in BC. How much more can they bear? It’s a fair question.”

 Teri James - Executive Director, Downtown Langley Business Association  -

“This is undeniably the most challenging time this has been for our small business owners. COVID was almost the breaking point for some businesses and now the unprecedented volume of homelessness, open drug use, mental health issues and crime has brought many to the edge of enough. This is a very complicated issue, and clearly current strategies are not working. We are seeking the support of all levels of government to work together to address these social issues before the already challenged small businesses crack under the pressure and cease to exist.”

Elizabeth Model – CEO, Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Area -

“Every morning we are greeted to a steady stream of phone calls from our businesses members asking for assistance from the DSBIA’s Bike Patrol relating to inappropriate social behaviours that are detrimental to conducting business in the area. The businesses have suffered losses through fires started by overnight campers trying to keep warm, vandalism, and theft. There have been an increase of threats and racial slurs but fortunately no escalation, as of yet - in physical violence. We must work on solutions together to formulate proactive plans to ensure it does not occur.”

Patricia Barnes – Executive Director, Hastings North Business Improvement Association  -

“Our businesses within the Hastings North BIA are seeing more evidence of street issues and experiencing increased vandalism, graffiti and shoplifting this year. Many of the businesses in this area are independent micro establishments and are both worried for themselves and staff as well as for the community and all who reside, visit, shop and work in the area.  We want to be part of a bipartisan, collective solution that strives to put the health and safety of all in the community first.”

 

Additional Information

Key Messages:

  • Members of Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) are today calling for urgent action from all three levels of government to deal with issues of crime and public safety on our streets, which are significantly impacting businesses and communities.
  • We recognize there is a vulnerable population that suffers from addiction, mental health, and homelessness in this province – and we are advocating for a concerted plan to support this vulnerable population.
  • However, there is also an immediate need to advocate for small business owners, their employees, and the communities they serve who are being drastically impacted.
  • This is a collective crisis, and we need a collective response by all three levels of government & above all, we need a bi-partisan approach to these complex issues.
  • BIABC is seeking a seat at the table and to be part of the solution. As local grassroots organizations, BIA’s hold specialized knowledge and insight, as well as unique partnerships in community that may help challenge assumptions and generate out-of-the box solutions for all.

Actions we are calling for:

  • At the municipal level, BIABC is challenging all mayoral and council candidates in the October civic elections to make a commitment to support core funding that will mitigate main street issues through increased policing resources, street lighting, sanitation, and anti-graffiti programs, as well as stronger bylaw enforcement.
  • At the provincial level, BIABC is recommending a concerted plan to support individuals dealing with mental health, addictions and/or homelessness, actions to address the issue of prolific offenders, an examination of alternative justice options, increased police resources, implementation of assistance programs for victims of commercial crime, and improvement of the crime reporting process and response through E-COMM.
  • At the federal level, BIABC is advocating for the establishment of an all-party committee on Downtowns and Main Streets.

 

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