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B.C., Quesnel consumers hit with “crime tax” says SOS coalition

Quesnel advocate pushing for business protection results out of B.C. budget

The Save Our Streets coalition (SOS) estimated this week that retail theft in B.C. ended up costing every family in the province about $824, this year.

“It’s getting more organized and more violent,” said Jess Ketchum, co-founder of SOS. “You may hear about the cost of groceries and gas but you won’t see the cost of organized theft and shoplifting to British Columbia families in the (new provincial budget), but it’s real. It’s like a crime tax, and it’s definitely taking a toll on families as well as the growing number of local businesses hit hard by crime and street disorder.”

Ketchum grew up in Quesnel and aided local MLA Alex Fraser in government before becoming one of the top communications consultants in the province. He is one of the leading voices in the calls to deal appropriately and quickly with the street crime culture in B.C. towns and cities. The vandalism, thievery, staff stress and small business losses, as well as the radiant hit to the provincial government’s coffers, is crippling the economy he said.

“As companies have to replace stolen merchandise and increase security, those costs become part of the business, and all of us end up paying the price,” said Ketchum. “Even more concerning is the increase in repeat offenders, and the fact that retail theft involving violence has increased 300 per cent over the past four years, according to the Retail Council of Canada. Workers and customers shouldn’t have to worry about their safety, but these days it is definitely on all our minds.”

Ketchum said SOS is calling on governments at every level to step up and use their resources and authority to “end the downward spiral that is hurting families, communities, neighbourhoods, and local businesses.”

SOS is calling on governments to more clearly identify and articulate objectives for decreasing these crimes, how success or failure will be measured and how they intend on meeting those objectives.

“When we started SOS last October, we had 30 community, neighbourhood and business organizations join us and since then, we’ve grown to nearly 80 members from across the province,” Ketchum said. “No community, no neighbourhood, and no business is immune from the sort of street disorder and theft we’re seeing today. While some of it can be attributed to individuals with addiction and mental health illnesses, there is also a growing organized criminal element that preys upon them and facilitates the crimes being committed. More and more stores are seeing people target specific items in an organized fashion. It’s a disturbing trend and it ends up costing all of us.”

Holding governments accountable for their responsibilities is at the core of the SOS strategy.

“We need less talk and more action from every level of government. British Columbians can lead the way. Let’s celebrate results rather than announcements,” said Ketchum.

Communities, citizen groups, and B.C. businesses interested in joining SOS are invited to contact: Their website is:

READ MORE: Save Our Streets attracts Quesnel members

READ MORE: ‘Crisis point’: B.C. coalition calls for more government action on crime

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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