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Home Woman business Downtown Vancouver businesses flag safety concerns in wake of deadly stabbing

Downtown Vancouver businesses flag safety concerns in wake of deadly stabbing

Businesses in downtown Vancouver are speaking out about their mounting crime and safety concerns, in the wake of a fatal daylight stabbing that has shocked the city.

Paul Schmidt, a 37-year-old husband and father, died after being stabbed outside a Starbucks at Granville and Georgia streets Sunday evening.

Sandeep Alexander, who owns Festal Café on Granville Street said the incident is yet another sign of deteriorating conditions in the downtown core that have driven staff and customers away.

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“Almost every other day we have people walking in, threatening our staff, taking money from the tip jars; we had multiple encounters of iPads being stolen, multiple encounters of vandalism. Quite a lot of these places the glass, shopfront — broken,” Alexander said.

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Alexander has had to close his downtown restaurant, in the wake of repeated vandalism that he estimates has cost him at least $100,000.

Click to play video: 'Growing memorial for Vancouver starbucks stabbing victim Paul Schmidt'

Growing memorial for Vancouver starbucks stabbing victim Paul Schmidt

The downtown core, he said, has never fully recovered from COVID, and on top of the mounting costs of inflation he’s now dealing with aggressive street disorder.

“The intent may not be to harm, but we’ve constantly had issues with them confronting our employees, confronting our customers,” Alexander said.

“We’ve had times where they’ve walked in, grabbed food off our customer’s plate and just walked out.”

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Joann Zarife, who operates Zatar w Zeit just a few steps away from the scene of Sunday’s deadly stabbing, said she’s had similar experiences.

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“My employees didn’t want to come to work. They’re scared,” she said.

Zarife said she’s a regular victim of theft and confrontations, and feels the city is doing little to address the problem.

After a recent shoplifting incident, she said she asked a patrol officer if she should be trying to step in to stop thieves herself.

Click to play video: 'Video of another Starbucks incident raises more questions about safety of downtown Vancouver'

Video of another Starbucks incident raises more questions about safety of downtown Vancouver

“He’s like, ‘No, you cannot confront them. He may have needles, infected needles.’ I am like, ‘OK what are you doing about it,’ and his response was that vandalism and robbery is at the bottom of the ladder, there are crimes that are more important to tackle,” she said.

“Increase security. We’re paying so much in taxes. Increase security. We don’t feel safe anymore.”

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Property damage, open drug use and graffiti are among the region’s chief concerns, according to the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

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The organization funds 14 safety ambassadors for the neighbourhood, but business owners say they have little power to address the area’s problems.

“We regularly meet with elected officials, we meet with VPD, we advocate for more police presence in downtown Vancouver,” BIA interim president and CEO Jane Talbot said.

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For Alexander, it’s simply too late.

He said unless there’s an imminent danger, he doesn’t even call police anymore.

“The cops may not be in a position to do a lot, so its inhibited us from calling them unless something goes to a point where we really need backup or help,” he said.

“I do feel concerned about the safety of my staff and the viability of the buisiness. A lot of people refuse to come downtown because of the situation.”

Instead, he told Global News, he plans to shutter the Granville Street location and look for a new home for his café in safer part of town.

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— with files from Rumina Daya

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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