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Crime holding back downtown Vancouver from making full economic recovery: BIA


Advocates for downtown Vancouver businesses are blaming the spike of crime in the city for holding back progress toward an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Public safety still remains a priority for downtown and we still think it is the number one recovery issue," said Noland Marshall, CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

The BIA released its annual State of Downtown report, which provides an overview of residential, commercial and tourism trends. 

Overall, the report has an optimistic outlook, showing residential vacancy rates and visitors to shops are bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels.

In fact, retail sales were up 14 per cent compared to 2019.

But the number of returning office workers is much lower than anticipated; the average weekly office foot traffic has only gone back up to 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

The report also anticipates most people will continue to work from home in some capacity, while 11 per cent will make a full return to the office.

"We've had an increase in property crime so we want to work with the city and Vancouver Police Department to address some of those concerns, so it really is the only thing that could stand in the way of a truly robust economic recovery," Marshall explained.

Const. Tania Visintin says crime has spiked throughout the city.

"It's not just downtown, we have noticed a general increase of crime…violent assaults, stranger assaults, graffiti, so yes, in general crime has gone up," she said.

The most recent data released by the Vancouver Police Department shows an overall increase in property crime in the first quarter of 2022 when compared to 2021, but a decrease if compared to a pre-pandemic period.

"The number of property crimes increased to 7,511 in 2022 up 6.8 per cent from 2021 (7,030); however, when compared to the three-year average for Q1 from 2017 to 2019, property crime has decreased by 22.3 per cent," a report to the police board says.

When it comes to violent crime, the VPD's data shows it has remained relatively unchanged compared to the first quarter of last year, decreasing by 0.8 per cent overall.

Marshall is optimistic foot traffic will eventually make a rebound, highlighting how 3.3 million square feet of office space is under construction and will be opening up over the next couple of years.

Tourism is also bouncing back, he said.

Hotel occupancy is still at half of the levels it used to be before the pandemic, but it is in an upward trajectory.

While the number of cruise ships expected to dock in the city will be slightly higher than in 2019.

"All the signs and all the trends are encouraging," he said. Top Stories

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