RCMP smash break-in ring

Four people believed responsible for the "majority" of the business break-ins in Richmond over the last few months, were arrested early Saturday morning by Richmond RCMP.

Mounties announced the arrests Tuesday night during a business workshop on how to deter thefts and break-ins that was attended by some 30 local business owners, Richmond RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski said Wednesdau.

Herbal stores located in strip malls have been repeatedly broken into since last summer, with the bandits targetting pricey herbal goods, some of which are more valuable per ounce than gold.

Kowalski said investigators believe the group—he wouldn't disclose their sex or age, but did say they reside in the Lower Mainland—was also responsible for break-ins at stores carrying electronics and cell phones.

Kowalski said it was a total team effort by various specialized sections of the local police detachment that ultimately led to the arrests.

He wouldn't disclose if police were conducting undercover surveillance on the group, but said special policing techniques were employed.

How many break-ins was the group responsible for?

Investigators are still trying to piece that part of the puzzle together, Kowalski said, but they could number in the dozens.

He said the suspects are known to police, that at least one has been charged, and all have been released on a promise-to-appear court document that requires them to attend court at a future date.

Last weekend's arrest is just the beginning of the work investigators must now do to determine the scope of the operation these individuals were connected with.

Were they organized crime? Were they targetting just Richmond, or other cities as well? Where were they selling these stolen goods, including the pricey herbal store items?

"There are a lot of questions to be answered," he said.

Literally dozens of Richmond RCMP officers have been working to catch the people behind the break-ins, he said. Police had noted a spike in break-ins, and were conducting foot, bike and cruiser patrols, and holding business workshops, among other things, to both protect local businesses and find the perpetrators.

Investigators will be linking up with police agencies elsewhere in the Lower Mainland to determine if the foursome is responsible for other break-ins.

Asked if further arrests are expected, Kowalski couldn't say, but said there definitely could be further criminal charges against the four suspects.

Kowalski said the group had a higher level of sophistication, and these break-ins weren't just "smash and grabs".

"It was a detachment and community success story," Kowalski said of the arrests. "It helped form partnerships that will remain for the future."

While it was complaints from Chinese herbal store owners that first led to meetings including civic leaders and RCMP, including Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Coun. Chak Au, Kowalski said other local business owners should stand up and take note.

"If you've got property of value that's part of your business, you need to make every effort to secure it," he said, adding that there are steps business owners can take to minimize "crimes of opportunity".

For more information, he said local business owners can call their local community police station, or the RCMP detachment at 604-278-1212.

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