A series of smash-and-grab robberies has enraged small business owners in Montreal’s Pointe-Sainte-Charles neighborhood.
The break-ins reached a peak in recent weeks on a stretch of Wellington Street in the Sud-Ouest borough, where the windows of at least five shops and restaurants have been broken so far this year.
On Wednesday morning, Jermaine Wallace, the owner of Boom J’s, a popular Jamaican restaurant, woke up to the news that his glass door had been shattered overnight.
“I was in shock,” he said. “It was like a punch in the stomach because this is my place. I’ve been here for over 10 years, everyone loves me. Everyone loves Boom J’s.”
Police arrived and did forensic analyzes on a trail of blood left near the broken glass door, where, Wallace said, the thief likely cut himself while stepping through the jagged hole.
The culprit made off with little cash, but the cost to repair the front door has been an added headache for Wallace.
“It’s not easy being an entrepreneur, especially a small business” he said, motioning to his door. “Damage like this, we take a hit.”
A trio of businesses opposite Boom J’s have also been affected, including Café Mollo, a bakery and café, and Espace Houblon, a craft beer shop whose front windows now feature metal grills inside.
In each case, the robberies played out similarly: the thief used a brick to smash a window or door and got inside — then headed straight for the cash register, grabbed what they could and left.
“It’s getting worse,” said Rachel Allou, who co-owns Marché Providence Distribution, a small grocery store, with her husband Sam-Patrick Amon.
“It used to be occasional vandalism. Now…” she moved to the window of her shop door, where the jagged glass was still evident under a repair. While it was unscathed by the most recent series of robberies, the Marché Providence Distribution was broken twice in 2021 and once in 2022.
Next door, at Miel et Blé, a cardboard panel covers a hole made in the door’s glass window last week. Jeanne Chevrel opened the coffee shop and bakery in September 2022.
“People stick together (in Pointe-Saint-Charles),” she said. “Merchants too, but for sure with these things, it’s worrying. Luckily there is support, but we all wake up early every morning to work hard and then things like this happen, we’re not happy. We’re really upset.”
The thief who targeted her business didn’t get any money from the register, but they did take bites out of her pastries.
“It’s almost laughable,” Chevrel said. “That’s how I’m looking at it anyways because it does us no good to complain more.
“Come and ask me for cakes — there’s no problem, I will give them to you with pleasure — but it’s a waste to break the window just to bite the pastries.”
Chevrel’s security cameras captured images of the thief. She, and other business owners, are hopeful police will catch the culprit and the robberies will cease. Meanwhile, some, like Wallace, are investing in more security cameras and leaving no money in their businesses overnight.
Montreal police say investigators are on the case, but no arrests have been made. There has been an uptick in break-ins in the area, a police spokesperson said in an email, but statistics show the overall trend for the sector is not yet increasing.