Penticton business owner speaks out after brazen theft, continual crime hits his store

'Brazen' theft concerning

Another Penticton business owner is left feeling like they're grasping at straws with what to do after dealing with an especially brazen theft on Saturday morning.

SmartShopper owner Leigh Follestad posted to Facebook after a woman loaded up a shopping cart full of groceries and simply walked out the front door shortly after 9 a.m.

“She walked out with no fear of repercussions, no fear of being caught,” he explained to Castanet.

His staff are not asked to chase down thieves, but that morning they ran after to confront her and she allegedly became abusive and threatening.

“The theft was so brazen because they know they're not going to get caught. I can call it in. The police will respond and they did. But when they catch them, they go to court. They don't care. They have nothing to lose.”

While dealing with theft is a part of retail, the constant crime takes a toll on the business.

“We raise prices to deal with that. But as a small business, when you raise prices, then nobody shops at your place anymore, because it's cheaper to shop at the big guys.”

The aggravation for Follestad is that the thieves are taking money out of his staff’s pockets, people who are working to put food on the table.

“At the end of the day, it is my income that allows me to pay my staff...It's frustrating, it's very depressing, it's very upsetting that this is where we've gotten to.”

Now, Follestad will be adding in a new measure of security to his store, at a cost he said will set him back an extra $2000-$5000.

Just two weeks ago, the owner of Dollar Dollar voiced his own frustration with the constant crime and break-ins at his own store, needing to add in more security measures and bars on the doors.

Follestad hopes to see more RCMP officers brought into Penticton, noting that an increased presence on the streets could be helpful in at least deterring criminal activity.

“There is absolutely no easy solution. So, I think at the end of the day, honestly, more police would be great. Is it going to change the problem? Absolutely not,” he said, adding that the change has to come from within the government and the judicial systems.

“I don't blame the police, I don't blame the provincial courts. I accuse the provincial government and the federal government. Those are the people that are responsible for what we're going through right now.”

Mayor John Vassilaki recently called the City in 'crisis mode' over crime. Penticton holds one of the highest caseloads per RCMP officer in British Columbia.

South Okanagan detachment commander Supt. Brian Hunter has told council in the past that the key is targeting prolific offenders through proactive policing, a task which would be made easier with more staff.

Council will soon be debating adding more RCMP and public safety officers into the 2022 budget. Vassilaki put forward a motion earlier this month to consider adding three new RCMP officers — on top of two new approved earlier this year, and two others who were built into the 2021 budget — for next year.

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