By the time Jim Rathwell hears the alarm from Happy Valley General Store, he knows it’s probably too late.
The storeowner has been frustrated by a persistent thief who targeted his Langford shop three times in the past 10 nights, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
“We’re a small business, we can’t take this kind of hit financially,” said Rathwell who opened the convenience store and deli on Happy Valley Road in 2009. “This is the first time we’ve had to deal with something like this.”
The thief made a failed attempt to enter through the store roof on Jan. 17 and two nights later someone banged out the lock on the rear door to successfully gain entry. Nothing was stolen until the third break-in.
At about 3:45 a.m. on Jan 27 a lone male entered the store through the front door after smashing out the bolt lock. He quickly filled a blue tote bin with cigarettes, lottery tickets and potato chips and made his getaway in a dark four-door car. He left a children’s car seat at the scene when he fled.
The store’s audible security alarm was tripped in all three break-ins, however it’s one-minute delay allowed the speedy thief time to clear the scene before it was activated. West Shore RCMP attended the area, but were unable locate the man.
In security footage his head, face and hands were covered and a witness near the scene was unable to provide a detailed description of the suspect. It’s not clear if a second suspect was waiting in the car.
“It’s the type of thing that can really make a person bitter,” Rathwell said, noting that he was having trouble convincing his insurance company to cover the losses.
“It’s some coward that did this,” he said. “We’re a tight community. If somebody needed help, he should have just come to me and asked. The damage he’s done to the store is coming straight out of my pocket.”
The West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in identifying the culprit. Anyone with information is asked to contact West Shore RCMP 250-474-2264 (reference file No. 2011-1111) or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222 TIPS(8477).