When the phone rang at 1:40 a.m. Monday, Dan Del Villano feared a family emergency.
No, it was the alarm company. Del Villano rushed to his Cabin 12 restaurant, just as he had half a dozen times before, on each occasion finding the alarm had been triggered by the wind, or ghosts, or whatever.
Except this time, he arrived at the Cedar Hill Road eatery just in time to see a burglar slip out the back door, two bottles of booze in hand.
“I chased him,” Del Villano says, “and discovered I’m in terrible shape.”
The thief chucked away one of the bottles (“I can highly recommend the wine he took, Diego Murillo, great value for the money”) and disappeared into the blackness between some houses.
That’s when common sense trumped anger and Del Villano gave up the pursuit. “It’s funny how you react. It’s stupid. What if I had caught him? I’ve got little kids. I don’t need to get knifed.”
He called 911, panting like a pervert. Victoria police arrived less than a minute later. They found the kitchen door had been forced. The thief had tried to get into the safe, without success. Good thing the light switches are in odd places or he might have swiped more stuff.
Saanich police were also looking for the burglar when word came in of a 4 a.m. break-in at the Shelbourne Plaza liquor store. A Saanich unit stopped a man and woman as they left the area in a car that proved to be full of booze. The man was known to police, as they say, and had outstanding warrants for breaking a probation order, possession of stolen property and theft under $5,000. Police think he did the Cabin 12 burglary, too, but had yet to charge him Monday.
No surprise if the burglar was a frequent flyer. As a rule of thumb, 20 per cent of the criminals do 80 per cent of the property crimes, says Staff Sgt. Gary Schenk, who heads the Regional Crime Unit.
The unit has plenty of success targeting prolific offenders, but knows the bad guys commit plenty of crimes for which they’re never charged. (I once interviewed an inmate who had seven convictions but estimated he had done 500 to 1,000 burglaries.)
Catching the crooks seldom helps the victims overcome their losses, either. “Unless you recover the stolen property, it doesn’t always bring them a great deal of satisfaction,” Schenk says. He points to last week’s arrest of a man charged with stealing $100,000 worth of cigarettes from 28 small businesses, mostly uninsured.
Even when the thief gets little of value, there’s a price to pay. Just ask Del Villano. He needed to fix the broken door, beef up the locks, maybe add some video cameras — this on a day when the priority was supposed to be replacing a deep fryer and getting a loved one to hospital.
There are intangible costs; Dan’s wife, Heather Del Villano, was terrified when she didn’t hear from him after he bolted for the restaurant in the middle of the night.
The couple bought into Cabin 12 three years ago when it was in its original location, just across Pandora from Centennial Square. Their partner is Corey Judd, whom you might remember from earlier columns.
Judd opened the restaurant on a shoestring budget in April 2009, only to almost lose it six days later when some passing drunk smashed the front window in an act of mindless vandalism. A $1,000 window bill is enough to sink the boat when you don’t have a thousand bucks. Only the generosity of strangers saved Judd and the 15 employees who, like him, had been drawn from the margins, flirting with life on the street.
I have a soft spot for the place because A) their menu includes an (appropriately cheesy) breakfast wrap bearing my name, and B) they have scrapped so hard to succeed. They’re up to 25 employees now, have a loyal customer base and — with hockey back and the HST disappearing April 1 — felt they were finally catching a break.
Then came Monday’s burglary. Nothing they can’t survive, but a setback nonetheless — and a reminder that there’s no such thing as “just” a property offence, that even bloodless crimes leave real victims.
© Copyright 2013