Jan. 15 update: Strangers help woman after car ransacked at hospital parking lot

A dying man is calling out some heartless thieves from his hospital bed after they ransacked his sister’s car three times in three weeks in the hospital parkade.

Alan Johnson, 58, who is in the palliative care ward at St. Paul’s Hospital fighting colorectal cancer, told CTV News these crimes have traumatized his sister even more as she visits him during his last days.

“They’re pathetic. They’ve got no morals. They’ll steal from anybody,” Johnson said. “It bothers me. Neither one of us have any money. She’s spending everything she has to be here.”

Police say the thefts are part of a wider surge of thefts from automobile in downtown Vancouver. And it’s those thefts that made a heartbreaking time even worse for Johnson’s sister Jean Jones.

Jones had driven from Leduc, Alta. to Vancouver just before Christmas to say goodbye.

She parked in the hospital parkade on Dec. 22 – and then found a suitcase of clothes, her laptop, and GPS stolen – thousands of dollars in value.

Her possessions were locked in the trunk, she said, and there was no sign of entry in the Pontiac Grand Am GT.

“I was crying. I’m not rich. My car’s 18 years old. I don’t have money. All of this is stuff I’m going to have to replace. Took me a long time to get this stuff and it’s gone in second,” an emotional Jones told CTV News.

On Jan. 8, thieves struck again, stealing groceries and a desktop fan. On Jan. 10, her car was broken into a third time, with the lining of the trunk rifled through and the trunk door left partially open.

“I’m appalled and disgusted,” she said, mainly because she wanted to make sure this time with her brother was spent to make him comfortable, not focus on these thefts.

St. Paul’s Hospital told CTV News it has cameras in the parkade and patrols the area some 12 times a day. In the last fiscal year, it had 10 complaints of thefts from cars, and in the last nine months, it had 12.

That’s one piece of a larger surge in thefts from cars around downtown Vancouver, according to police statistics.

Thefts from automobiles went up some 38 per cent from 892 in November 2016 to more than 1200 in November 2017. Officers focused on parking lots in the downtown core and arrested 25 people and charged them with more than 80 crimes.

“The majority of them were supporting a drug habit. They took that risk in order to get something to sell [to buy] drugs,” said the VPD spokesperson, Jason Robillard.

Robillard said motorists should keep their valuables out of sight – something that Jones did – but it’s even safer to leave nothing in the car at all.

“We recommend people do their best not to have anything valuable in their car at all,” he said.

Since Jones told hospital staff about the theft, someone has washed her car and her social worker has also found a way to pay for parking.

They are small things that keep her hopeful in her brother’s last days, she said.

And Johnson says he’s glad that she’s there with him, even if there has been so much trouble with thieves.

“It means a lot,” he said.

Jones has set up a GoFundMe for anyone wishing to give her a donation. She plans to use the money to replace her things and spend the rest on a funeral.