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Police chief addresses Vancouver business community

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Vancouver's police chief addressed the city's business community in a presentation to the Board of Trade on Tuesday, the first time he's addressed the group's members-at-large in more than eight years.

Vancouver Police Department Chief Const. Adam Palmer faced a full house during the lunch-hour presentation, where he began by telling business leaders that his members are deeply affected by the recent spate of policing deaths in the country.

He then went on to give a general outline of the VPD’s work, including recruitment efforts, strategies to address mental health calls, stranger assaults, and the decriminalization of hard drugs for personal use, which he has supported.

“What we wanted to see as chiefs of police is redirecting people from the criminal justice system onto a health-care pathway so they would get to a better place in life with treatment and recovery and get out of the cycle of addiction,” Palmer said. “That pathway is not as robust as it needs to be and that is one of the issues that we're seeing right now.”

Palmer also acknowledged that “there is some displacement” of the homeless population throughout the Metro Vancouver region in the wake of April’s decampment of the tent city in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He pointed out several times that the city has been a hub for services and therefore had a concentration of homeless people disproportionate to the city’s population for years.

His address came on the heels of a newly formed coalition of business leaders, trade associations and others calling themselves “Save Our Streets” and demanding swift action on issues including vandalism, theft, and violent crime.

The Vancouver Police Department already consumes a huge portion of the city’s budget, and Palmer urged attendees to continue to pressure other levels of government to take concrete action on issues like bail reform to help them address repeat offenders.

“We're a big city now with big city problems and we've got lots of social issues that intersect with law enforcement and public safety issues,” said Palmer, pointing out that all cities along the Pacific coast are dealing with a surge of violent crime and homelessness, and there aren’t simple solutions.

“It's a whole-of-government response,” he said. “You can't police your way out of it. You can't arrest your way out of it.”

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