VICTORIA -- With many Victoria business owners voicing concerns about safety in the downtown core, a number of stores have banded together to hire private security for the area.

In a news release Thursday, Themis Security said that it would be expanding its patrol service to the Lower Johnson Street and Yates Street areas.

"Due to a rise in crime and vandalism, Themis Security has begun patrolling these sections of downtown at the request of local merchants," said the company.

Themis Security adds that both businesses and residents have expressed concern about theft, vandalism and safety downtown, and that "nuisance" activity has negatively impacted quality of life and commerce in the area. 

Last week, Lili Butterfield, owner of boutique clothing store "Dancing with Lily", told CTV News that thieves have become increasingly brazen and that criminal activity has her concerned for the safety of her employees. 

"As a boss, I want to protect my staff and I think having security would do that," Butterfield said last Wednesday

Meanwhile, Il Terrazzo restaurant owner Shelly Gudgeon says that the eatery has already hired a private security team, and that she understands why other businesses have turned to the same idea.

Gudgeon says that police response times can be slow if calls for help are not considered emergencies, and she believes that the city is partly to blame for not providing enough police funding. 

"We've heard council say small business is the heart and soul of the economy in the city, but we don't – I don't, personally – feel that is being respected by city council," she told CTV News last week. 

On Jan. 15, Victoria Police Chief Del Manak told CTV News that he understands downtown business owners' frustrations, and that a lack of police resources hampers the force's ability to respond to calls. 

"We're looking at everything from scheduling changes to reassignment of priorities, and also which calls perhaps we shouldn't go to," Manak said.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says that the city has heard residents' concerns, and that city council is more likely to approve the next police budget, as compared to previous years.

"Part of what the Police Board brought forward were special municipal constables," Helps told CTV News Wednesday. "Those are non-sworn officers who would take the load off the officers working on the front lines."

On Thursday, Themis Security said that its street patrols will try to make their presence visible and attend to merchant's safety.

"Our security staff are always there to help businesses and residents if they have safety and security concerns," said Mirko Filipovic, a spokesperson for Themis Security. 

"With a response time around eight minutes, we can be an effective first responder for most incidents."