Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff Lisa Spencer-Cook, owner of LV’s Vinyl Cafe on Ross Street, is disheartened her business was broken into early Wednesday.

Downtown Red Deer business owners struggle with spike in property crimes

LV’s Vinyl Cafe owner, a single mother, is saddened to be the latest crime victim

The latest break-in in downtown Red Deer is a heartbreaker for the business owner – a single mother trying make ends meet while raising an autistic daughter.

An emotional Lisa Spencer-Cook said she sold her home and used the proceeds to open LV’s Vinyl Cafe on Ross Street three weeks ago, so she could bring her four-year-old to work when needed.

“It’s so hard to find (flexible) employment when you have a special needs child,” she explained.

But her small business – which sells lunch food, vinyl records and band T-shirts and employs two part-time special needs staffers – had its front door smashed and cash register stolen at about 4 a.m. Wednesday.

A tearful Spencer-Cook now wonders how she can afford the repair bill.

“I thought, it’s going to be OK. I’m going to make the rent and make payroll this month – and then this happens …”

The LV’s Vinyl Cafe break-in is the latest in a spate of downtown property crimes.

The situation is described by some core Red Deer business owners as being the worst ever with the down-turn in the economy, the local opioid crisis, and Red Deer’s Hwy 2 location.

Sunworks owner Paul Harris said his Ross Street properties have been hit by crime almost weekly.

“We’ve been stolen from, vandalized, broken into, and our neighbours have been broken into,” he added – referring to housewarmings, Joshua Tree furniture refurbishing and antique store, and others.

Cracking down on property crimes was a priority in the last Red Deer policing plan, but some downtown business owners believe the current level of RCMP patrols is not enough. Harris feels taxes should be raised if that’s what it takes to hire significantly more RCMP officers.

According to RCMP stats, Red Deer’s detachment has 161 officers when the average for communities with more than 100,000 people is 194 officers. “I think we’re definitely doing a good job, but we need more members,” said Corp. Karyn Kay.

Paul Goranson, director of protective services, said increasing patrols had some success last summer, but now break-ins are rising again. He expects a funding request for more police officers will be discussed as part of the 2018 operational budget.

Dose Coffee shop owner Rolland Forsland wonders if more RCMP members will make a difference. Unless there’s an officer standing at every corner, he fears criminals will just wait until the coast is clear before striking. “I’m not sure what the answer is…”

Perhaps building businesses with good sight lines and getting everyone to watch out for and report crime would help, he suggested.

When Red Deer’s supervised drug consumption site opens, as expected, in 2018, Spencer-Cook hopes more drug users can be influenced to seek treatment.

While saddened by the break-in, she’s committed to staying downtown. “I want to raise my daughter in a vibrant cultural community.”

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