Smithers RCMP has permanently ramped up its patrols of the Main Street area amid calls for increased security after seven downtown businesses were broken into overnight on Sunday.
Forensics officers from Terrace were in Smithers yesterday looking for evidence in seven thefts and two attempts to break in to local businesses between Sunday night and Monday morning.
Police believe the crimes were committed by a transient male looking for cash. They have identified a suspect and sent a bulletin to other detachments in an effort to find him.
Smithers RCMP Staff Sergeant Rob Mitchell said the man is also a suspect in a series of similar break-ins in Prince Rupert.
“We suspect that the individual that is responsible for them is a transient male that’s known to stay in shelters and move from town to town,” said Mitchell.
The crime spree has left local merchants shaken and asking for a stronger police presence in the area.
Michelle Blackett’s business New Age Insights was among those broken into on Sunday night.
She called for police to increase patrols in the area around Main Street, where her shop is located in the Smithers Plaza.
“We just need more patrols by the police department I think, in the early hours of the morning,” said Blackett.
“The police need to have more of a presence, this is something that’s been going on for years.”
Kitchen Works was also targeted but the thief was unable to make it inside.
Owner Ron Robichaud said it was the third time thieves had tried but failed to break in to his business in the two years he has owned it.
He said he considered that number to be too high for the size of the community and echoed Blackett’s calls for a stronger police presence at night.
“It’s our core of our community which should be protected,” said Robichaud.
“The vandals basically targeted a concentrated area of businesses and they were able to go to nine businesses with not much difficulty or not being apprehended or even being deterred after the first or second or third.”
He said there should be more police patrols and possibly security cameras installed to deter criminals.
Robichaud plans to talk to other merchants about measures to prevent more break-ins in the future.
Barb Fassnacht has been running Barb’s Bodacious Boutique on Main Street for four-and-a-half years.
She said the thief must have been looking for cash because they did not damage any of her stock.
“This is the first time and I’m just grateful they didn’t trash the whole place,” she said.
Fassnacht agreed with the other merchants there should be more police patrols.
Smithers RCMP Staff Sergeant Rob Mitchell said his detachment had always conducted periodic patrols of the area but it had increased them permanently after this week’s crimes.
“We have already implemented a policy of more regular, more frequent patrols, which were already underway but we have ramped them up in light of the most recent rash of break and enters,” he said.
“Some business owners for obvious reasons have expressed concerns.”