Store owner seeks social media assist to snap break-in string
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A downtown storefront owner has appealed to social media after his business was targeted three times within the past month by what appears to be the same thief.
“It’s a long shot,” Andrew Parkes, co-owner of Eph Apparel, posted on Twitter hours after he discovered a male suspect had walked out with the custom menswear store’s 23-kilogram safe around 4 a.m. on Jan. 16.
The secure container had been purchased to store staff-used iPad tablets following two previous break-ins in late December and early January.
“This fine fella has broken into my business three times in the last 30 days. This time he walked out with our entire safe (which is kind of impressive [to be honest]),” Parkes tweeted, along with a brief description and security camera screenshots. “Any leads are welcome!”
As of Tuesday evening, the message hadn’t yielded any answers.
Winnipeg police confirmed it received three reports of break-ins and theft at the 190 Smith St. business since late last year, though a spokesperson wouldn’t offer any comment on the case.
Asked whether it’s helpful to investigations for security camera footage to be posted online, a police spokesperson stated in an email: “We would ask that any victim of a crime speak with investigators prior to posting anything publicly online.”
Parkes said he knows finding the culprit would be like “a needle in a haystack,” but believes the business is being targeted repeatedly by the same, likely experienced, thief.
The store uses iPads to process its sales, and has had to replace that equipment after each break-in. Overall, he said, nearly 20 iPads, a couple of laptops, 15 watches from a display case and about $2,000 in cash has been taken.
“How far could this guy have walked with a safe under his arm without getting noticed when you’re 50 metres from the Winnipeg (police headquarters)?”–Andrew Parkes
Eph Apparel had been tightening security measures, including installing an alarm system, and had planned to bolt down the safe, but didn’t have a chance before it was stolen, Parkes said.
“How far could this guy have walked with a safe under his arm without getting noticed when you’re 50 metres from the Winnipeg (police headquarters),” he added.
Eph Apparel boarded up its glass doors following the first two break-ins. After reviewing the surveillance footage, Parkes said it seemed the thief was repeatedly hitting the boards before he eventually broke in.
“He got in, and then he put the plywood back up to make it look like nothing was askew,” before likely leaving unnoticed via a back exit, Parkes said.
The business, which opened on Garry Street in 2013 and moved to its current location three years later, had not experienced a break-in before last month.
“I’m a big supporter of downtown, I’ve always loved being located downtown,” Parkes said, explaining he doesn’t see this as a larger safety issue or an example of neighbourhood decline.
“I hate that narrative. To me, downtown gets worse the less time people spend there, the less people and businesses there, the more emboldened people feel to attack the people that are there.”
It’s likely just one thief targeting one place, Parkes said.
“We have so many wonderful things to celebrate about our downtown, and I don’t want anybody to feel like this is a safety thing or anything like that. I just think it’s one individual who’s found an opportunity.”
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.