'I stepped over dead people to get to my car': Former Gastown business owner’s candid letter on Vancouver's crime
A former Gastown restaurant owner has sent a candid letter to Vancouver city officials, detailing his five year experience in the area. Uwe Boll was the owner of Bauhaus restaurant, which closed in March of 2020.
"We got robbed, vandalized, peed on, yelled at and spit on from homeless (people) and drug addicts for five years," Boll wrote in a post online.
"I stepped over dead people to get to my car. My wife had a dead person lying on the roof of her car."
Boll is currently in Germany for work but tells CTV News Vancouver he wrote the letter after the Gastown Business Improvement Association reached out to members asking them to send emails to government, detailing their experience.
"I got a lot of response from people I know, they say, finally somebody said it as harsh as it is," Boll said. "We got robbed various times, broken into our cars." He said a staff member once had to go to hospital while taking garbage into the alley and stepping on a needle but "the biggest thing was when a dead person was on top of my wife's car."
Boll said he and his wife heard sirens one night and walked outside the restaurant to find a woman’s body on top of their vehicle.
"Police are around your car and somebody’s thrown a woman out of a window on top of a car, dead. And they just told my wife she should drive through the car wash," Boll said, adding it was something that gave them nightmares.
Other business owners across the city are also voicing concerns about crime and disorder.
John Clerides is the owner of Marquis Wine Cellar on Davie Street. Last month, thieves used blow torches to shatter the front window of his store and steal a $6,000 e-bike that was used for deliveries.
"They were in and out in 30 seconds," Clerides said, adding the current rate of crime is worse than he’s ever seen.
"Definitely more street crime, vandalism, B and Es, drug use, public defecation," he said. "Historically Davie Street has always been a fascinating, interesting place and that’s what I love about it."
Jacqui McMullen with the West End Business Improvement Association says she’s also felt a shift.
"You have to have your wits about you when you’re walking around sometimes and it never felt like that," McMullen said. "It’s the worst I’ve seen, definitely."
Business owners all through the downtown core have been dealing with smashed windows for months, with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on repairs in recent months. According to the West End Community Police Office, there’s been a 50 per cent increase in mischief related crimes from April to September of this year.
There’s also been an increase in “stranger assaults”. The Vancouver Police Department says there were around 1,555 attacks involving 1,705 victims reported from Sept. 1, 2020 to Aug. 31 of this year.
A statement from Const. Tania Visintin Thursday said patrols are continuing, but there were no figures available yet on any arrests.
The new executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Association is optimistic. Wally Wargolet moved into the role only six months ago and says he is seeing improvements.
"We’ve had some tourists come through, some of the businesses are starting to come back," Wargolet said. "This is a neighbourhood that has always had empathy for the entire socio-economic groups, all of them."
In response to Boll’s candid letter, Wargolet said "what you’re hearing is empathy is beginning to turn to apathy."
Wargolet said he is meeting with three councilors from the City of Vancouver in November.
“We’re going to talk about action items and what the city can do,” he said.