Courtenay Habitat for Humanity ReStore manager Deb Bowman was greeted with an unpleasant surprise when she arrived at work Tuesday morning; a shattered front door.
A thief broke into the local second-hand store sometime overnight.
“It was clear that the intention of the person who broke in was to grab the donation box, which was visible from the door,” said Bowman. “It’s one of those things, where it’s always been there, and no one has really thought, ‘Hmm, you know…’ It’s been there for so long we just don’t pay attention to it that much.”
The donation box was secured to a heavy base, to prevent anyone from running off with it during regular store business hours.
“It was screwed onto a very heavy base. It could swivel, but … The base was on the ground, on its side. So it looks like they were able to sheer it off of the screws. I don’t know how they did that; they were strong.”
Bowman said it is hard to say how much money was in it, but there was at least one week’s worth of donations. The person responsible for emptying the box has been on holidays.
The costs associated with the break-in are likely higher than the actual dollar amount stolen.
“The money lost is one thing. But we do have to pay to replace the window – that will probably be our biggest cost – and we had to open late, so we lost an hour of business,” said Bowman.
That hour of business could be substantial, considering Courtenay is one of the top-selling ReStores in Canada.
The box is a Plexiglas house-shaped box, about one cubic foot in size. The donations were dropped through the ‘chimney.”
Bowman said dealing with crime is an ongoing issue for the store.
“I’ve been with the ReStore since November of 2017 and this is the first time we have had a break-in [into the store itself], but we have had people regularly breaking into our yard,” said Bowman. “Literally, there are areas where you can see where people have folded away the fencing, then folded it back so you can’t tell they were in there. People broke into our sea can, and took metal and tools. It’s a regular occurrence here, and when I say regular, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have people in [the yard] every night.”
She said precautions have been taken, but there’s only so much that can be done, on a non-profit budget.
“The cameras that can be installed are very expensive – we are talking thousands of dollars – but we have done things with lighting, making it brighter, which of course increases our Hydro bill every month. So it’s difficult,” said Bowman. “We are constantly trying to do little things, making it more difficult for people to get in, but it’s like having a water leak on a boat; as soon as you plug up one hole, it’s coming out of another one with more force.”
Bowman said shoplifting is another ongoing concern at the store.
“People are changing price tags all the time – taking a $20 price tag and switching it with a $2 price tag. I caught a lady shoplifting a couple of weeks ago – literally just filling her bag as she walked around the store. It’s a non-stop issue of people shoplifting and thieving from our store. People are shocked to hear that it happens to us, but it happens every day.”
As for replacing the donation box?
“Not sure about the wisdom of that, considering the locale we are in right now,” said Bowman. “We might put off on that until we are in a better location.”