A robbery took place in Portage la Prairie Tuesday at Olina Fashions, located downtown on Saskatchewan Avenue. 

Ajay Aggarwal owns Olina Fashions, Olina Cannabis, Olina Jewellery, and Taste of Spice restaurant, besides their leasing corporation, and robberies have been commonplace at his stores for over a decade.

Aggarwal says he's beyond frustrated with how this kind of crime can continue, and basically, nothing is being done about it.

"This is not a shoplifting incident," says Aggarwal. "I'm saying we had a robbery yesterday around 3:30 at Olina Fashions. There were three people: one girl and two boys in a blue colour car, and the license plate number was KTD 368. We have the picture of it."

Olina FashionsOlina Fashions

He explains he left the store that was robbed with his colleague in charge of the store. Five minutes later, he drove his car back to the site from his other nearby store.

"And when we were coming back from there, we saw two people with their hands full of clothing -- big jackets -- and running, coming out from my store, and getting into the car," says Aggarwal. "So, we tried to chase the car. First, we tried to stop them outside Olina Fashions. The girl was driving very professionally. She reversed it, put it on the sidewalk and then ran away. We chased the car for almost 5-6 kilometres. We tried to stop them in a couple of spots, but she was able to manage it. Then they dispersed."

Aggarwal says they saw the vehicle stop as a man ran out of the car with his arms full of the store's goods. He notes the man ran toward some houses at 7th Street NW and Lorne. The vehicle then drove away in another direction. 

"In the meantime, we were trying to reach RCMP so that they could help us catch these guys," continues Aggarwal. "We were trying to find out if we were able to recover our inventory because there's a lot of stuff they took. And then the RCMP came. The frustration with the whole thing is we have the car number. We have the picture of the car number as per the RCMP. The car belongs to Winnipeg. It was driven by a lady and it was owned by a lady. The chances are the lady who owns it is driving it, but they cannot do anything about it."

He explains RCMP stated that they're not sure if the same lady who owns the vehicle was driving it. 

"My question to the whole system is, when we know the car is involved in the crime, what is stopping us from confiscating the car?" notes Aggarwal. "Then she will tell who was driving it, even if she was not driving it, though I'm sure she's the one who was driving it. When we were chasing them, they were driving through all the red lights and all the stop signs. Plus, the car was involved in the crime. They said Canadian law doesn't allow them to capture the car. The Canadian law doesn't allow them to catch hold of the guy who owns the car. And the Canadian law doesn't allow them to do anything about it because they have no solid proof that they were involved in it."

Aggarwal says they took possession of a picture of the car, adding it didn't help them. 

"Technically, what they were trying to tell me is that nothing can be done about it, and this is not the first time. It's every time," says Aggarwal. "This is what we hear. We had several similar incidents over the last 13 years. That was the reason we reached the point where we thought about closing all our businesses. We reached the stage of wondering if we should continue in Portage or not. We recovered. We came back with all our force, but it's happening again. In the daylight, they are doing it. They are doing it because they know nothing is going to happen. The law will not do anything about it. Right?"

In his frustration, Aggarwal notes pressure must be put on the judicial system, and that's the sole reason he was running for a council position in town in the last election.  

"These crimes are affecting the small businesses," adds Aggarwal. "If something happens to the liquor store, suddenly the whole system wakes up. They did everything, but when it comes to small businesses, they don't do anything. They're just trying to convince me to take the loss and forget about it. How many times should I forget about it? Do I make so much money, so that I'll keep on forgetting about it?" 

Aggarwal says the vehicle was discovered to be from Winnipeg, and the woman who owns it lives in that city. This means it falls under the jurisdiction of the Winnipeg Police who are overly busy with small issues. 

"I asked the RCMP officer, 'Are you saying you cannot talk to the Winnipeg Police, even though you know that the car was involved in the crime, and they have no time?'" says Aggarwal. "If you cannot go, then I can go and talk to the Winnipeg Police, and they can do something about it so you can get access to that car."

He notes they also informed him that the vehicle was not stolen. It belongs to a specific woman. 

Car involved in theftCar involved in theft

"I told them, we saw the lady was driving and the two guys were sitting with all the inventory in the car," adds Aggarwal. "I find it so frustrating when we know who did it, and still we can't do anything. Every time we had a robbery, they called us and asked if we recognized the face. I meet 100 customers. Then they change their face in such a way that you cannot recognize them. Then they came out and they're on camera. It looks like you are on the wrong side. You have to prove that they did it. It's like the law supports them more than me."

Aggarwal explains the cost of the stolen items on Tuesday amounted to about $2,500. He notes other incidents also took place as recently as December 31st and 23rd. 

"Those are all small," continues Aggarwal. "If people come and grab all the inventory and run away, are we safe in this town? The question is, are we safe? We talked so much about the crimes in Portage. That is exactly what we were talking about. Are we safe? We know nothing is going to happen. I'm telling you, nothing is going to happen. As usual, I have to take that loss. The same thing happened last month. People come, grabbed it, and run away. So, there has to be an end to it."

He adds somebody has to stand up and talk to the Crown and to judicial officials who make these laws. Aggarwal says changes must take place so that the RCMP doesn't have to inform him that the Canadian law works in a certain way that disables them from doing anything.

"They should go back, try to recover my inventory and try to punish these criminals," says Aggarwal. "The message should go to the criminals, saying, 'No, if you do it, there are repercussions.' It should not be a free-for-all for everybody, as though, 'Nothing is going to happen.' After talking to RCMP, I can see their frustration. 'Even if we catch them, what will happen? They will be out tomorrow.'"

Aggarwal notes he closed up all his store windows in the clothing store, due to the overabundance of break-ins. 

"We had nine break-ins in one month," notes Aggarwal. "Break-ins were happening every second month. Insurance warned me that they stopped. They were not paying for my inventory, but they were paying for my glass. They warned me that they have to close my insurance on all my buildings. People think, 'OK, they got robbed. They got paid by insurance.' No, we don't get paid by insurance because insurance has smartly put it saying that you have to have a minimum loss of this much -- so, $5,000. To recover anything from them, my losses have to be $5,000 and more. So, every time, I have to surely take the loss of $5,000, and the only thing they will pay for is my glass."

Over the years of repeated thefts, he notes he's lost $300,000 in jewellery and between $500,000 and $600,000 altogether.