VANCOUVER -- A newly formed unit established to control crime in several Vancouver neighbourhoods has led to a complaint to the Vancouver Police Board.

Three groups allege the department's Neighbourhood Response Unit will “intensify disproportionate and discriminatory policing” in some downtown neighbourhoods.

The Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society, Pivot Legal Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users say the unit “directly conflicts” with a city council resolution issued in July to decriminalize poverty and support community-led safety programs.

Vancouver police said in a statement last week that the unit was formed in response to community concern about crime and that their members had answered 300 calls and seized 34 weapons since it started earlier this month.

Const. Tania Visintin said teams had received calls from the Strathcona, Chinatown and Yaletown areas, while opponents of the unit say it is also active on the city's Downtown Eastside.

The complaint to the police board calls for immediate suspension of the unit.

Meenakshi Mannoe of Pivot says the creation of the new unit shows police are acting unilaterally, rather than shifting to crisis support for the vulnerable.

“This is an entirely inappropriate action by the (police department), informed by inadequate surveying,” says Mannoe.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2020.