Safety concerns raised after fatal double stabbing at Vancouver hotel
The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, March 15, 2015 11:12AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, March 16, 2015 2:50PM PDT
VANCOUVER - A violent week at a hotel in Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside that culminated in the fatal stabbings of two men is prompting some tenants to call for change.
The West Hotel - a rooming house occupied by about 110 people, many elderly, disabled or mentally ill - has seen three violent stabbings in the space of a few days.
A 24-year-old man and a 37-year-old man were killed in a double stabbing on Saturday night. Four days earlier, another man was stabbed in the hotel but survived.
Tenant Dan Zimmermann says security at the building has been “plummeting downhill” since a new management company, Community Builders Group, took over several months ago.
“At this point, I want them gone,” he said. “It's too much drug activity, just illegal activity, period. It's becoming confrontational. Tenants are getting threatened, tenants are getting hurt.”
Zimmermann and other tenants held a news conference Sunday to voice their safety fears. He said the front desk was often left without staff and non-residents intent on criminal activity were regularly entering the building.
But Julie Roberts, president of the Community Builders Group, said the front desk has been staffed 24 hours a day. She did note staff have been leaving the desk at times to check other floors.
Beginning on Sunday, one person would remain at the front desk at all times and the non-profit will work toward bringing in more staff to patrol the building, said Roberts.
“Obviously, what happened last night really highlights the fact that there is more security needed,” she said on Sunday. “We definitely recognize that and are responding as quickly as we can.”
Roberts said initially a sister organization, Community Builders Foundation, began managing the hotel in October. But it was decided that her group had more resources and it took over in December.
She said the locks to the hotel have been changed multiple times and would be changed again immediately.
Roberts added the non-profit, which manages several hotels in the Downtown Eastside, would meet with the building owners and city officials on Monday to discuss next steps.
A spokesman for the City of Vancouver said the city has been pressuring the building's owner over the past several months to comply with health and safety standards.
Tobin Postma said that during a visit last week, inspectors found almost 40 violations remained outstanding, and city staff will meet with the owners this week to ensure they are fixed.
He said privately-owned single room occupancy hotels are an “ongoing, serious concern” for Vancouver, and the city will continue to work with the province to replace the aging housing stock.
“Because of their aging condition, owners do not properly maintain these buildings and are unable to manage the many vulnerable tenants who are typically on fixed incomes,” Postma said in an email.
A corporate registry shows the building is owned by a numbered company, 0955802 B.C. Ltd., which did not immediately return requests for comment Sunday.
Vancouver Police Sgt. Randy Fincham said officers responded to a call at the hotel Saturday evening and found the 24-year-old man, who died at the scene.
Officers then found the 37-year-old man suffering from a life-threatening stab wound on a separate floor. He was rushed to hospital where he later died.
Fincham said police believe the men were targeted but a motive is unknown. Both are known to police, but it is not known yet whether they were living at the hotel. No one has been arrested.
“We do think these are connected, but of course to have two homicides in one evening is extremely rare in the city of Vancouver,” said Fincham.
“Going forward, we will be working with hotel staff as well as the city to take a look at that hotel. We do believe that everybody in the city has the right to have a safe place to live.”