Timmins helping businesses make their properties less tempting to thieves and vandals

Through the City of Timmins Community Improvement Plan, eligible business owners can apply for a grant to be used for the purchase of security cameras and safety lights. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News)

Jewelry store owner Linda Flondra says it's been 20 years since her store, Flondra's, was a target of crime. A break-in in May has her considering upgrading her shop's security features.

“We’re actually going to be putting in expandable gates in our back windows," said Flondra. "We already have it in our front door and we’re upgrading all of our cameras, indoor and outdoor."

The City of Timmins going to help cover the costs.

"The cost of security equipment is rising and people want to upgrade the systems, so the extra percentage from 50 to 75 per cent to a maximum of $5,000 helps a lot of the businesses," said Timmins Mayor George Pirie.

The percentage increase was passed at a council meeting in July after Downtown Timmins lobbied for the change.

Pirie said numerous businesses have applied and Downtown officials encourage others as well.

"Take advantage of it; please don’t be shy," said Cindy Campbell, executive director of Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Area.

"We know where security gates have helped businesses stay safe; we know lighting in the laneway helps people stay safe; we know that cameras help prevent crime and vandalism, so use those tools to your advantage.”

Marc Depatie, Timmins police communications co-ordinator, said since Jan. 1, officers have responded to 230 break-ins and that number has dropped by 140 compared to the same time period last year. He said so far, there were charges in 34 cases.

"Any dollars spent towards hardening the target, protecting the downtown, protecting businesses from becoming victims of break and enters or vandalism or other forms of petty crime is absolutely money well spent," said Depatie.

Through its Community Improvement Plan, the city also offers other grants to go to construction and facades, for example. But Campbell said many business owners have tight budgets right now due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

“It’s hard to put, you know, $100,000 into a facade improvement when you’re worried about someone breaking down the back door," she said.

"So right now, let’s do what we really need to do to ensure downtown grows and stays safe and vibrant and then we’ll pretty it up.”

There is no deadline to apply for a safety grant, and this opportunity is not just for downtown. The city of Timmins website has maps showing areas of eligibility, stretching from the Mattagami River bridge to the east end of the city.