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Police respond to rise of ‘smash-and-grab’ business heists

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Journal Staff

A business owner on Lambton Mall Road is dismayed after smash-and-grab thieves struck his store twice in 10-day period this month.

And he’s not alone. Non-residential break-ins have increased 52% over the past three years, Sarnia Police stats indicate.

“This is a really bad experience for business people here,” said Hubert Wu, who has operated PC Service Depot for seven years at 1362 Lambton Mall Rd.

“We don’t know about the future now. We want to make sure everybody feels safe, us and our customers.”

The computer and electronics store was victimized in the early morning hours of Feb. 9 when someone smashed in the front door and made off with merchandise.

Then the same thing occurred again on Feb. 19.

For a store in a well-lit and high-traffic commercial zone to be victimized twice in 10 days shows the problem isn’t confined to any one area of the city, said Wu, who cited recent media coverage of Mitton Village break-ins.

“A lot of my customers tell me it is drug-related.”

Smash-and-grabs —in which thieves quickly force entry, grab valuables or cash and flee— are occurring to businesses across the city, said Sarnia Police Const. John Sottosanti.

“It’s all over the place. It’s not just a south-end issue or a north-end issue or a central-city issue. It’s all over.”

Non-residential break-ins have risen 52%, from 108 in 2015 to 164 last year, police say.

“This year, we have noticed a definite spike. We were kept busy with a lot of these and they were all of the same nature,” Sottosanti said.

Police are working on several “special projects” to address business burglary, he added, but declined to provide specifics.

“Fortunately, we’re a smaller town so we know a lot of the people who are active in regards to certain crimes,” Sottosanti said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of these crimes are motivated by money that can be used for narcotics. But we do know these individuals travel in similar, certain circles.”

On Feb. 20, city officers raided a home on South Christina Street and arrested two men and two women in their 20s and 30s.

About $28,000 worth of fentanyl and cannabis products were seized. Also found was evidence linking the two men to break and enters at local businesses earlier this month, police said.

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