The Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) wants the province to create a fund to support initiatives aimed at curtailing the impacts of vandalism and property crime.
In a recent letter to Premier David Eby and Finance Minister Katrine Conroy, the organization commended the provision of $1 billion to local municipalities to build and invest in infrastructure and amenities, through the Growing Communities Fund.
However, BIABC also called for the creation of separate funding to address what it called “rampant vandalism and property crime” across the province.
BIABC, which represents more than 70 business districts across B.C., said business cost pressures coupled with repeat vandalism and property crimes threaten the short and long-term viability of small businesses.
The group pointed to a survey of 500 Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, and Victoria businesses that asked about the impact of crime and vandalism and how long they can continue to operate with such pressures.
Nine per cent said less than one year, 17 per cent said one year and a further 22 per cent suggested two years.
BIABC president Teri Smith said such figures indicate the need for immediate relief and funding for anti-vandalism programs aimed at enhancing business security and/or mitigating the impacts of crime.
“Eligible initiatives could include, business security audits, costs associated with glass replacement or graffiti removal, installation of shatter-proof film treatments, as well as stronger locks and better lighting, or upgrading of alarm and monitoring systems,” Smith said.
Glacier Media’s request to the Ministry of Finance was passed to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
In a statement, that ministry said it shares British Columbians' frustrations with repeated criminal activity, including vandalism and property crime.
It pointed to the Safer Communities Action Plan it said is strengthening enforcement and expanding services to build safe, healthy communities.
Part of that work, the statement said, includes:
- expanding mental health crisis response teams into more communities so police can focus on crime, and people in crisis can get supports from trained health-care workers and community members; and
- working with all levels of government to strengthen enforcement to ensure there are consequences, and address the root causes of crime to end the cycle of re-offending and violence.
The ministry said the NDP‘s March 1 provincial budget “will continue to make smart investments in the things that matter most to help build a stronger, more secure B.C. for everyone.”
BIABC said specific business improvement areas and municipalities have been administering programs in response to street level conditions, but said that with appropriately funded programs and resources, a stronger and broader impact is possible.
Smith added Business Improvement Areas of BC recognizes the complexity of the issue and the utility of the safe communities plan.
“While we support the various facets of the plan, several of them are longer-term in nature and with many businesses on the brink of closure, we need to also identify solutions that will provide immediate relief in the interim,” Smith said.