Only 11 charges out of 300 calls to VPD's neighbourhood response team so far
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver police showed off the results of a new task force Thursday, just 11 days after it was formed.
The Neighbourhood Response Team (NRT) was formed in response to public criticism and a survey that found an overwhelming percentage of people who live or work in Vancouver are concerned about crime, which they believe has worsened.
CTV News Vancouver has learned that out of more than 300 calls to the team, which was formed specifically to address low-level crimes, only 11 charges have been recommended to Crown prosecutors.
The NRT is focused on what the Vancouver Police Department describes as “low-priority calls” for minor break-ins, nuisance calls and community safety issues in the downtown neighbourhoods of Yaletown, Chinatown, Strathcona and the Granville Street corridor.
A spokesperson said more than 300 calls for service have been referred to the task force since it was formed on Nov. 2. Those calls have resulted in 34 weapons seized, including everything from a slingshot to a replica firearm, batons and box-cutters, as well as a couple of makeshift shanks.
"These officers have done a great job focusing on street disorder as it's becoming a growing problem in this city. It's looking really good for the first 11 days," said Const. Tania Visintin, who described the team’s work as addressing what are typically low-priority calls that often end up not being addressed in the face of more serious crimes that are increasing in the city. “These lower level calls that we're speaking to, it would take longer for police to get to, but all these lower level calls eventually do add up and it becomes a problem and becomes a problem in the city in these neighbourhoods like Strathcona, along Granville Street and Yaletown."
Visintin detailed three such cases undertaken by the NRT, including stopping a cyclist without a helmet who turned out to be riding a stolen bike, a trespasser at a fast food restaurant wanted on an outstanding warrant with several weapons on his person, and a community safety member who witnessed a man robbing a woman’s purse as it was happening.
When CTV News asked whether the enforcement efforts would simply move nuisance calls or petty crime to other parts of the city, treating the symptom rather than the underlying problems, the VPD insisted it is committed to tackling underlying issues with consideration for individual circumstances.
"Not only are we dealing with crimes that are happening or criminals that have these weapons, we're getting people connected with the hospital, to mental health workers,” said Visintin. “We're checking on people that are sleeping on the street just to make sure they're OK – not necessarily (to) move them along all the time, just to make sure they're doing OK."