99% increase in commercial break and enters in Vancouver: police
VANCOUVER -- New data released by police in Surrey and Vancouver show changes in reported crimes in B.C.'s two largest cities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Vancouver police note that their calls for service across the city have been down overall, there has been a 99 per cent increase in commercial break and enters in the last eight weeks compared to 2019.
"We have reallocated resources to target these individuals," said Sgt. Aaron Roed with Vancouver police. "We have target teams as well as surveillance teams who are trying to get people before they even break into the businesses to go after those numbers and lower them and put them into jail."
On April 14, police announced 40 suspects had been arrested in connection to commercial break and enter crimes. Police said charges have been submitted to Crown, which are under review, but most of those suspects have been released.
"We have seen a few of those people who have been arrested and re-arrested," said Roed.
Over the last eight weeks, residential break and enters have also increased by nearly 43 per cent, with thieves targeting storage lockers and garages instead of homes. Police recommend using surveillance cameras to monitor suspicious activity and removing any valuable property from storage lockers or ensuring those items aren't visible.
Surrey's quarterly crime statistics are expected to be released next week but said it's too soon to say whether the novel coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the crimes being committed in the city.
"It's too early for us to tell if any decreases or increases really are attributed to COVID-19 or if there's other factors involved," said Cpl. Elenore Sturko with Surrey RCMP. "But we have seen some sort of shift of crime types."
Mounties said that the city has actually seen a drop in vehicle break-ins and thefts over the last four weeks. When it comes to commercial break and enters, however, police have seen an increase, with 48 additional files.
"We have increased the amount of patrols that we're doing in areas of businesses, increased the visibility of police by having more people doing foot patrols, bike patrols in areas where businesses and other locations where people aren't on the street as much," said Sturko.
In residential areas where a lot of people are still at home or walking around, crime has gone down, Sturko noted. Mounties have also received nine calls for domestic violence, which they say is a small increase.
Sturko notes though that data, gathered from March 12 to April 14, is based on crimes that have been reported and not charges or outcomes of investigations.
"It is something important to keep in mind, but also we are keeping track of these things in a real time basis so that we're making sure that we're appropriately deploying the resources that we have available," she said.
Surrey RCMP also noted that there has been an increase in reported sextortion scams, where someone threatens to release an explicit photo or video of a person unless they pay them money. In some cases, the scammer will also demand more explicit images.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Regan Hasegawa