The operators of a chain of Vancouver Island businesses are speaking out after logging their 24th break-in in 25 years of business.

Early Sunday morning, someone smashed through the front window at the Nanaimo location of The Gold Silver Guy — managing to reach into a display case and run off with more than $3,000 in product.

“They managed to steal at least 20 pocket watches and several wristwatches. Those pocket watches are going to be 100 years old or more,” manager Jeremy Daniels said.


Click to play video: 'Vancouver Island business targeted by thieves for 22nd time'


Vancouver Island business targeted by thieves for 22nd time


“It’s all out of pocket. We’re the type of industry where it’s virtually impossible to get insured … the more you get broken into the less insurable you are, so every time we get hit it drops the odds we can get insured anywhere.”

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The culprit in this case wore a mask and gloves and escaped on a bike.


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Daniels estimated that the company has lost more than $250,000 in product across its nine locations over the course of the two-dozen break-ins.

The thieves have become increasingly creative — in several cases managing to smash through a concrete wall to gain access.

It’s the reality many Naimaimo business owners are facing, amid a reported increase in property crime.

Jona Kristinsson said she had to move her clothing store because women no longer felt safe coming to her downtown location.

“There was practically death in my street, ambulances constantly coming and going. Coming to work, having to try to move somebody away from your windows or your door. Cleaning up needles, cleaning up feces,” she said.

The situation, according to local community group the Nanaimo Public Safety Association, is not sustainable.

“This is the entire city of Nanaimo and it comes right back to the provincial and federal governments where they have to step up to the plate and they’re not doing anything,” organizer Kevin Shaw said.

“This is insane, this is crazy. Out of those 25 break-ins now, only two people have been caught.”

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Last spring, Premier David Eby and members of his cabinet unveiled the government’s Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative in an effort to crack down on crime.

The initiative includes a dozen specialized hubs, including one in Nanaimo housing a dedicated team of police, prosecutors and probation officers targeting repeat offenders.


Click to play video: 'Vancouver Island business owner fed up with repeated break ins'


Vancouver Island business owner fed up with repeated break ins


But according to Shaw, just 13 people are on the hub’s watch program in Nanaimo, 10 of whom are currently behind bars.

Nanaimo RCMP, meanwhile, are urging business owners to “harden” the security at their properties.

“Businesses have to take responsibility,” Reserve Const. Gary O’Brien said.

“People should not be given the opportunity to break a window and reach in and steal items. If anything, those items need to be removed at night and put in a secure area.”

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Daniels said The Gold Silver Guy has rolled out an increasingly complex system of security ranging from shatter-proof film and bars on windows to double doors and various locks.

“Each time, the rats find a new way,” he said.

“Everybody feels violated in these instances – when somebody decides to break into their home or businesses and destroy what they’ve spent a lifetime building.”

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