Officer assaulted, police issue warning about Oppenheimer Park
Nick Wells, CTV News Vancouver
Published Thursday, July 11, 2019 3:38PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 11, 2019 6:58PM PDT
Vancouver police say they're seeing an increase of violence in and around Oppenheimer Park, and in one case an officer was assaulted while helping city crews.
Police say they're seeing an increase in the number of emergency calls as well, with 92 calls in June and 87 in May.
"There has been a sharp increase in the level of violence in and around the encampment at Oppenheimer Park in recent months," said Sgt. Jason Robillard.
"We had an officer that was assaulted Wednesday. She was kicked several times while trying to remove a man who had jumped on a garbage truck. These types of incidents are concerning to us."
Robillard said conditions are becoming unsafe for officers, but stopped short of discussing removing the tents, saying the police force was consulting with the city and partners.
The statement comes on the heels of a Wednesday night shooting at the park.
A 31-year-old man was taken to hospital with a non-life threatening injury.
The park has seen a dramatic increase in the number of campers from previous years.
Fiona York, with the Carnegie Community Action Project, estimates the number of tents has doubled in a month to between 100 and 120.
But she expressed doubt about Robillard's safety claims.
York says she's down at the park nearly every day, in the evening, and has never felt unsafe.
"The concern is around the contagion. Is it really about people staying in the park or is it another measure of control and pressure?" she said.
The rise in tents should highlight the need for housing, York argues.
"The most safe place for people is in permanent housing. It'll reduce calls and make people feel safe. That's something we should be looking at," she said.
The number of tents has led to the Powell Street Festival, the yearly celebration of Japanese culture in an area that used to be home to Vancouver's Japanese community, announcing it wouldn't hold events in the park.
"As a community that has experienced forced displacement, we refuse to continue this pattern of dispossession of vulnerable people in the neighborhood," said Powell Street Festival President Eddy Takayanagi in a statement. "In respect for the current residents of the neighborhood and the occupants of the park, we have designed our festival and program to ensure the people in the park are not displaced while providing a rich cultural experience for our festival goers."