Robberies at Y-Not: nothing to worry about?

West End convenience store robbed three times in four months; experts, community members remain loyal to the area

Y-Not Foods has been robbed three times since April. The store recently changed ownership. Dylan Hewlett

When his Ellice Avenue store was robbed this July, manager Jay Baik Na was alone behind the counter.

On July 17, Na watched helplessly as two thieves entered Y-Not Foods armed with knives and made off with more than $800 in cash and merchandise.

It was the third time he had been robbed since April.

“I couldn’t do anything. There was no one there to help. I think that (the thieves) knew that,” Na said.

Na reported the incident to the police, but has not heard from them. Na still does not know who was responsible, or whether any of the stolen merchandise will be returned.

Na began managing at Y-Not in September 2011.

While he had worked in convenience stores before, he was not expecting to be faced with so much crime at Y-Not, he says.

He left his job in mid-August, and is currently seeking employment.

Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Jason Michalyshen said while Na has not heard from them in a while, the WPS are still putting in every effort to find suspects and make an arrest.

“Members of our major crime unit have been assigned to this case and are continuing to investigate,” Michalyshen said. “I can assure you there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.”

On the night of the latest robbery, Vassan Aruljothi, who lives in the neighbourhood, was about to enter Y-Not with a friend when the thieves made their escape.

“I was about to open the door and a so-called thief was running out with a big knife,” Aruljothi said. “We thought he was going to stab my friend, but he just bolted towards traffic.”

While the event was shocking, Aruljothi says it is not the scariest event he has witnessed in the area, nor has it deterred him from living, working and shopping in the neighbourhood.

“I think downtown has its own culture, and if we don’t come down here, who else will?” he said.

Aruljothi considers his neighbourhood to be a vibrant and eclectic space that does not deserve the reputation it holds.

“Since I’ve lived here I’ve made some cool friends, I’ve met people from different socioeconomic statuses, people from reserves, war-torn refugees. Where would I get such great stories living in the suburbs?”

While robberies like the one at Y-Not may make the West End sound like a dangerous place, Gloria Cardwell-Hoeppner, executive director of the West End Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), maintains crimes like these are common to all areas of Winnipeg.

“That perception, that the West End is a dangerous place, is part of the biggest problem that we battle here,” she said.  “You just need to look at the headlines to notice that crime knows no boundaries.”

Fear of the West End is largely due to misinformation, she added. This fear causes many people to avoid the area, when what the West End really needs is more attention.

“You never help an area by staying away from it. You help an area by committing to it, believing in it and taking ownership of it,” Cardwell-Hoeppner said.

In order to ensure workers in the West End are as safe as possible, the BIZ produces a crime prevention guide, in partnership with the Winnipeg Police Service.

It has proven to be a very helpful tool, said Cardwell-Hoeppner, who encourages business owners to give the pamphlets to their front-line staff.

“It’s so popular it’s been copied by other business improvement zones,” she said.

Published in Volume 67, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 12, 2012)

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