ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- A spree of break-ins since non-essential businesses were closed has St. Thomas’ police chief offering advice to worried business owners.

“Since COVID happened (we’ve) definitely noticed a spike in property crimes. We’ve had some break and enters in the downtown core,” explains Chief Chris Herridge.

Herridge hopes a recent arrest will slow the number of break-ins going forward.

He is still advising that temporarily closed businesses take precautions including:

  • ensure security cameras and systems are working
  • leave no cash on the premises
  • empty windows of valuables
  • check on the business daily

At Dark Matter Toys, owner Craig Lawrence is taking steps to protect his merchandise until mandatory closures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are over.

”I have a lot of preventative measures here. Cameras bars, the alarm system.”

St. Thomas police are also beefing up patrols and opening a command centre inside the Tourism Centre on Talbot Street.

The chief will evaluate the effectiveness of the downtown base for after the pandemic subsides, “This may be the start of us having a presence downtown moving forward.”

After 94 years in St. Thomas, the Lyle Cook Automotive Centre has survived the Great Depression and a world war.

Owner John Cook is confident business will return after COVID-19 wanes, and is happy to see more police patrols in the meantime.

“I could see more vandalism potentially, so we need the police on foot patrol to monitor this stuff."

Lawrence has shifted his sales of classic and collectable toys online until the door of Dark Matter Toys is allowed to reopen.

He has faith that no matter how hard times get, Canadians will look out for each other.

“If you are going to steal from a small business like mine, you are really only stealing future memories and smiles from other people.”

The St. Thomas Police Service has more tips for businesses on its website.