Vancouver police increasing patrols in Strathcona in response to neighbourhood concerns
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver police say they will be stepping up patrols in the Strathcona area in response to concerns raised by local residents.
Parents in the neighbourhood had also been calling for immediate action after a series of incidents involving young children allegedly being threatened and attacked.
Katie Lewis lives across from MacLean Park and is also the vice-president of the Strathcona Residents' Association. She says last week she witnessed a five-year-old boy be picked up by a stranger and lifted into the air.
“Then the person, who was clearly not mentally stable, ran into the water park and proceeded to have an argument with himself,” Lewis added that despite the scare, the young boy seemed fine.
She’s also heard stories from other residents. On Monday night, Lewis says another parent told her they found an abandoned fanny pack on a bench near the water park, inside was a handgun.
Another incident involved an eight-day-old baby amongst a group of adults in the park, Lewis said a “man came in with a stick and he threatened to kill the child and threatened to rape the child.”
Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry also lives in Strathcona.
He says there “certainly has been an uptick in incidents that have raised concerns” for residents.
“People have bottles thrown at them and needles thrown at them,” Fry said. “A little boy that I know quite well, a gentleman threatened to poke his eyes out, gouge his eyes out if he didn’t stop looking at him.”
Locals say the issues have worsened since the homeless encampment was set up in Strathcona park. Many of the residents there used to live in Oppenheimer Park before that tent city was shut down, they set up in Crab Park until they were again moved on.
The elder of the Strathcona tent city, who just goes by the name Veronica, said they do not condone any kind of violence.
“Not one human being is like that here,” she said. “To hear those kinds of things, for sure there's no question, I am absolutely hurt to think that there’s any reflection on this community.”
As of July 31, five additional officers and community safety members will be deployed on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays to the areas directly around Strathcona Park, Vancouver police announced Thursday. Police say these resources will be in addition to the regular patrol teams already active in the Strathcona area.
In a statement to CTV News, Const. Tania Visintin with the Vancouver Police Department said she was “aware that people from the community have voiced concerns about (threats to children)” but could not confirm if police are investigating. She is urging parents and guardians to call police immediately when incidents happen.
"We do suspect that suspicious activity or criminal activity in the area may go unreported, so we want people to call 911 anytime they feel unsafe or they see something that's just not right, please call 911 so we can track this and we can respond accordingly," Visintin said.
While police actually received fewer calls for service in Strathcona this year compared to last year, calls for service specifically in Strathcona Park have risen, according to VPD.
Vancouver police received 39 calls for service in the park in July 2020, but only received 15 calls in July 2019.
Police say the most common calls they've received in June and July this year have been for theft and weapons. VPD will also have a dedicated crime analyst for the neighbourhood who will be evaluating and monitoring incidents on a daily basis.
On Wednesday, B.C. announced plans for Canada’s first-ever “navigation centre” in Vancouver. The facility would provide 60 beds for the homeless community, along with support and addiction services. A location has not yet been decided, and it’s not set to be open until next year.
But Strathcona residents say that's too long to wait.
“We were encourage by the announcement about navigation centres this morning, we’re a little discouraged that it’s going to take six months,” Lewis said. “We need to see action now.”