'It feels like we’re on the other side': Crimes fall in Vancouver
VANCOUVER -- New crime data appears to show the wave of crimes that targeted businesses left vacant during the pandemic is ebbing.
A combination of a surge in arrests, as well as security measures brought in by merchants and business improvement associations could be turning the tide.
“I put the bars back on the windows and since then haven’t had any problems,” said Jason Overbo, the owner of Brooklyn Clothing in Yaletown, which was hit multiple times.
“In the last six weeks, we’ve been targeted by both shoplifting, grab and runs, and also straight-up robberies and vandalism,” he said.
Several different windows were smashed along the Davie Street storefront, costing him tens of thousands of dollars in lost merchandise.
“It was like groundhog day. I get another call in the morning, it’s the police, another window’s broken. I found out later from looking at the video that they had smashed the window, three of them, scooped up whatever they could carry and ran,” he said.
In mid-March, public health officials asked people to stay home to stop the spread of COVID19, the virus that is responsible for some 227,000 deaths across the globe as of Wednesday.
That action may have been part of what kept the number of cases in B.C. relatively low. But the lack of people on the streets and in stores provided cover for lawlessness.
The number of break and enters on commercial storefronts jumped from around 50 per week in February to a high of 121 per week in early April, figures show.
But that’s come down to 58 last week — similar to pre-pandemic levels.
Other thefts jumped from around 86 per week to a high of 128 per week, but have since dropped to just 22 last week.
Thefts from vehicles has almost halved from a high of almost 300 a week before the pandemic to 164 last week.
And as fewer people are driving, fewer people are getting hit by cars. In late February, there were between 14 and 18 pedestrians injured per week. Last week, there were just two.
Many businesses boarded up or increased their security in response to the crime wave. The Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association started a volunteer patrol.
Vancouver’s mayor is also crediting the Vancouver police, which created teams to try and surveil criminals before they were able to break in.
“They’ve been reallocating resources to deal with the crime patterns and that does seem to have an effect,” Kennedy Stewart said. “I’m very happy that police are taking these actions.”
The risk is still there, warned Vancouver police Sgt. Aaron Roed.
“Two weeks ago we arrested 40 people in a one-week span. That hasn’t stopped. We are still targeting those individuals and putting them in jail,” Roed said.
Overbo said he’s optimistic about security. He said he’s hoping more people realize they can also shop for clothes from his store online as well.
"You don’t hear about it getting worse anymore. You hear about it getting better. How we reopen. Who will reopen first. That’s the story now. It feels like we’re on the other side," he said.