It’s been a rough October for Commons Liquor & More, located in Cowichan Commons.
The store has been broken into four times since Oct. 6, with the latest taking place in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, causing severe damage to four of its front windows. A quantity of liquor was stolen each time.
Manager Annie Bellis said security cameras showed two men outside the liquor store early in the morning on Oct. 6 throwing a large rock through one of the double-paned windows, which weren’t protected with metal bars or grates at the time.
She said they entered the store and were not detected because the motion detector was partially obscured during the break in and didn’t go off, and the men came and went several times in the three hours it took for the motion detector to finally pick them up and alert authorities.
Bellis said that during this time, a group of four young people, who she estimates to be between 18 and 19 years old and are known to the shop’s employees to be from the area, also took advantage of the smashed window and entered the liquor store themselves and began stealing liquor.
“It was those four kids who broke into the store the next three times,” she said.
Bellis said metal grates were ordered from a security company in Victoria to cover the windows after the first incident, but in the time it took for the grates to be delivered and installed, the liquor store was broken into again twice more in the middle of the night by the same four young people, the security cameras showed, by smashing through another two windows.
“After that, we had someone stay at the store during the evenings to provide security until we had the new metal grates installed,” she said.
“After the grates were installed, we didn’t have anyone stay overnight on Sunday because we didn’t think it would be necessary. But these same kids smashed through a fourth window and pushed the metal grate back and forth until there was enough room for one of the girls to climb through and open the front door for the others.”
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The intruders were gone before police arrived, but Bellis had heard they had caught at least one of them.
Since then, Bellis said the store has had to bring in carpenters to strengthen the window boxes so the metal grates can’t be manipulated and shifted, and will have to replace all four of the smashed windows; as well as bear the costs of installing security alarms in the windows that will go off if they are smashed.
In all, Bellis estimates the the costs of securing the store against further break ins will be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and the shop has also lost a significant amount of liquor, mostly high-end tequilas and vodkas, and the value of that has yet to be determined.
“This store has been here for 13 years and has never had a break in before,” she said.
“It’s devastating. I started taking it personally, but I can’t do that because these are just delinquent kids who obviously have nothing better to do.”
The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment said two individuals were arrested in connection with at least one of the break ins, and the investigation is continuing.