VICTORIA -- The devastating toll of the novel coronavirus is not limited to health and the economy, it's also impacting crime on Vancouver Island.

Local police say that crime rates, in particular property crime, have spiked since the pandemic took hold.

Saanich Police Cst. Markus Anastasiades says property crime has spiked in the past few weeks.

“It’s up about 30 per cent in property related crimes and that includes break and enters, thefts of [cars] and shoplifting,” he said.

The trend is being seen in other parts of Vancouver Island. Victoria Police Cst. Cam MacIntyre says Victoria has seen a significant increase in calls for service since March 15, especially in relation to property crimes.

“We have seen a 22 per cent increase in calls for service, and in particular, a 25 per cent increase in regard to property crime.”

Certain neighbourhoods have been hit particularly hard. For example, VicPD reports that calls for service near Topaz Park are up by more than 126 per cent.

And although Victoria’s downtown core — ripe with boarded up business — has also been a target, MacIntrye says the nearby Burnside Gorge neighbourhood has seen a higher rise in property crime.

Police say the uptick in crimes reflects opportunism by crooks.

“These are crimes of opportunity,” said Anastasiades. “Criminals are out there thinking there are less people looking after their stores and less people out there on the roads looking out.”

On the West Shore, thefts of vehicles and other property crime has gotten so bad in the past few weeks that the RCMP is considering hiring more police officers.

While Victoria and Saanich insist that they have enough patrols and officers, Anastasiades says basic steps by all of us can help reduce property crime.

“Removing everything from sight [helps],” he said. “It’s kind of the same message for motor vehicles. If criminals can’t see what they want to take, then they’re not going to break into it.”

If there is a silver lining to this unsettling crime trend, it is that violent crimes are down in both Saanich and Victoria.