With stores closed by COVID-19, VPD works to combat surge in break-ins
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Police Department says it is "taking significant measures" to address a spike in property crime at downtown businesses that are shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These measures include "several investigative projects" targeting known offenders, as well as increased visibility and additional officers near the hardest-hit areas, which include the city's downtown core.
“Property crime is an issue in Vancouver year-round and we continuously implement new measures to help reduce property crime and target repeat offenders,” said VPD Chief Adam Palmer in a news release. “However, it appears thieves are attempting to take advantage of commercial spaces that are closed due to social distancing measures. We are targeting these offenders aggressively on several levels.”
On Wednesday, CTV News Vancouver reported the apparent quadrupling of attempted break-ins at shuttered businesses on Robson and Georgia streets. Police said they typically see one break-in per day, but have recently been seeing four per day.
Thursday's VPD release provided some additional statistics on property crime in the city.
In the two weeks between March 1 and March 15, there were 86 commercial break-ins reported across the city, police said. In just one week between March 16 and March 24, there were nearly the same number - a total of 81.
In downtown Vancouver, those numbers are more stark. Police said they responded to 20 break-in calls during the same two-week period between March 1 and March 15. That number jumped to 35 in the following single week.
At the same time, overall property crime in Vancouver has been decreasing. Police said they have seen a 12 per cent reduction in such calls since March 12. They've also seen a 10 per cent decrease in calls for service, overall, in that time.
Police said they are partnering with Vancouver's business improvement associations to help combat the spike in commercial break-ins.
They are encouraging businesses to move merchandise away from windows and out of view, or remove it from shuttered stores altogether. They're also advising that businesses use window shutters, upgrade their locks, and increase outdoor lighting to deter criminal activity.
Anyone who sees a crime in progress or suspicious activity is advised to call 911, police said.