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Businesses sound alarm about more break-ins during shutdown
LONDON, ONT. -- After a recent break-in in broad daylight, a London business owner is worrying about her Richmond Street business during the pandemic.
Lisa Ferguson was inside her clothing store Hangar 9 recently, when a woman knocked at her door, then pushed her way in.
"My daughter and I were both physically assaulted," says Ferguson, whose shop is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I got punched, she (my daughter) got punched and we got kicked. It was horrifying."
Her next door neighbour Andrew Douglas had a break-in Friday.
The thieves stole leather, watches and his Michael Kors collection. Douglas spent nearly 12 hours cleaning his business Saturday, and declined our request for an interview.
His landlord, Shmuel Farhi is fed up, and is calling on city hall and the police to protect properties downtown.
CTV News obtained a copy of a letter Farhi sent to those agencies Friday, where he sounded off about the damage his buildings have sustained since COVID-19 came to the Forest City.
"Now the downtown is shut, it's an opportunity for crime to happen like no other," says Farhi, a London developer. "It's up to elected officials to make sure the safety of our properties and our people."
In the letter, he cited 14 of his properties which have had break-ins or damage over the past few months. They include destruction of HVAC systems costing over $123,000 to obtain just $500 worth of copper, glass, and petty theft.
"Thieves already stripped several of our buildings for copper," says Farhi. "We've had over $1.5 million in damages over the past two years."
Farhi is going as far as threatening to board up all his properties similar to what has happened in major cities around North America.
"Many of big shopping centres are barricading themselves," says Farhi. "In cities like Vancouver, Montreal, and even the Eaton Centre in Toronto have done it. We might have to do it to protect the life and the cost associated with the property damaged."
Mayor Ed Holder says the city is in the process of implementing their Core Area Action Plan (CAAP).
"I was in contact with the police chief today and he indicates and recognizes the challenges in downtown, Old East Village and on Richmond Street," says Holder.
He says they have engaged with the downtown business association and received input from them with issues.
The mayor says while the CAAP is not fully implemented, steps have been taken, including increased police patrols.
"My words would be that the owners have to do what they need to do to protect their properties, and we understand that."
Back on Richmond Street, Ferguson fears looting is only going to get worse."
"As Shmuel put it, 'It's turning into the Wild West,'" says Ferguson. "These criminals need to see that the police are here and they are watching and they won't put up with it. I do fear though, that it's going to escalate."