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Downtown businesses locking doors, reducing hours because of apparent crime spike

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Jas Panesar's family has operated Golden Grocery on 110 Street downtown for 23 years, but she just recently started locking the door to control who comes in, because of rising crime.

In the last few months, she says theft has become rampant, and showed surveillance video to CTV News Edmonton Tuesday to illustrate the problem.

It showed a thief posing as a customer as he casually stuffs his arms with as many groceries as he can carry.

Panesar sensed that something was wrong, so she locked the door and called the police.

"He’s telling me, 'Open it, open it.' I say, 'No, not until you pay for it,'" she recalled.

The thief is seen kicking the front door repeatedly, and when that doesn't work, he runs out the back.

Panesar said officers arrived minutes later, but the thief is already gone and the owner is left with the repair bill. It cost her $600 to fix the door.

She said shoplifters often swipe products off her shelves, before running out and escaping into the nearby LRT station.

"We will have this happen one to two times every day," she said.

Golden Grocery isn’t alone. A 7-Eleven on 109 Street downtown has started closing on Saturday. Staff told CTV News Edmonton that shoplifting has gotten so bad they can no longer stay open.

"There are huge gaps right now in community safety," said Puneeta McBryan with the Downtown Business Association.

The DBA is waiting for hard data from Edmonton Police Service, but McBryan said business owners and staff have noticed a rise in property crime in the last three months.

Over the weekend, someone shattered the window at the Downtown Farmer’s Market.

A few days later, thieves backed their truck into a jewellery store on Jasper Avenue, smashing the storefront and stealing watches.

"I would love to have more police patrols overnight, and during the day, so downtown doesn’t feel so quiet," McBryan said.

Panesar also wants more patrols at LRT stations, an issue also raised recently by the transit union.

"How long is this going to go on? No business should have to lock their door."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Touria Izri

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