A business owner in a small community near Kamsack is living with fear and frustration.
For the last five years businesses in the town of Norquay have been broken into, robbed and vandalized a number of times, according to Donna Toffan, owner of the Whistle Stop Classic Caféand Lounge in Norquay.
Toffan is in the midst of cleaning up after her 15th break in, which occurred on March 31, and says she is feeling “very disheartened."
"I cried when I saw all the senseless damage that was inflicted on the business which I have poured my heart into for the last 35 years," she said. "As I was waiting for the RCMP to arrive, I felt so frustrated and violated. I just broke down and cried. This is my life and my livelihood I have worked so hard to make it a beautiful facility for folks to come, relax, and enjoy a good meal. What’s happening is just unbearable to witness time and time again."
Toffan opened the Whistle Stop 35 years ago.
"In the first 30 years of operation we were broken into two times. In the last five years we've been broken into 15 times. It is surreal.
“The criminals have learned it will take anywhere from a half-an-hour to an hour for the police to arrive, and they just come in and make a real mess in addition to stealing.
"This time they smashed a barbecue, smashed a picnic table, smashed a window, smashed doors, tore handles off the urinals and smashed a door of a cooler in the building.
"It's a terrible thing to find such vandalism. I feel violated."
Toffan says as a business owner she is now at the end of her tether, having done everything possible to secure her business against theft, including security cameras, security sirens, and bars on the windows.
"By the time we are alerted by the security company and arrive at the Café, the perpetrators have been able to inflict a serious amount of damage and have escaped with whatever they have stolen.
"The worst part is the vandalism. This is a double hit for the business because our insurance rates will go up once again."
Toffan noted that a group of young perpetrators were apprehended on one occasion by the RCMP. When they appeared in court a judge handed down a shockingly mild sentence of house arrest and no restitution, she said.
"They we're given a slap on the wrist, by a sympathetic judge. Myself, my hard work and the hard work done by the RCMP were dealt a slap in the face."
Other businesses in the town have been targeted also in the same five-year period, and have taken extreme measures to fortify their businesses. Local residents have put bars on their windows and fear they also will be targeted, Toffan said.
Hillary Walter became the owner of the Norquay Family Pharmacy in December of 2015. Since then, the business has been broken into twice.
“On both occasions the thieves stole a large quantity of alcohol,” Walter said. As a business owner, Walter has taken steps to make her business a less desirable target by adding deterrents such as bars on the windows and a steel overlay so the door-jams are inaccessible.
“Whenever a break-in happens in the community, people are made aware of the vulnerability of Norquay,” she said.
"There is no deterrent in Norquay. Criminals have realized that they can terrorize the town and get away with it," said Toffan.
For Toffan the frustration is evident, and she fears there is no solution at this point that will put an end to what has become a major issue in Norquay.
The RCMP Crime Watch Advisory which was released about the latest break in, said: “On March 31 at approximately 5:00 a.m. the Kamsack RCMP responded to a ‘Break and Enter’ at the Norquay Whistle Stop. The front window was smashed and three suspects entered through a front window, stole a large amount of liquor, and left through the bar door. It is unknown whether they left on foot or in a vehicle. If you have information related to this advisory please call 911 or 310-RCMP.”