Chinatown shopowners to speak at special city council meeting on crime

Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association among the delegations to speak on public safety and street disorder at Thursday meeting.

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Break-ins, shoplifting, vandalism and even assaults have become so commonplace for shopkeepers in Chinatown that they don’t bother reporting all of them to police, says the son of a couple who ran a barbecue meat shop in the neighborhood for decades.

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“We’re really encouraging our members to report every crime because Vancouver police have told us we should report everything. They rely on crime statistics to allocate their manpower,” said Henry Tom, vice-president of the Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association.

Tom will be among a delegation from his association that will speak at a special council meeting on Thursday night at City Hall on public safety and violent crime across Vancouver.

“Things like shoplifting or graffiti, these are small crimes, seemingly victimless crimes, but they’re not,” he said. Association members say they feel there is no point in reporting such incidents because they rarely hear of offenders being arrested, let alone prosecuted.

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“The businesses themselves are trying to do what they can,” said Tom. Their business improvement associations “spend half their budgets on private security patrols and another part of it on graffiti removal.”

Tom is grateful for police efforts to help educate his membership about public safety and for responding promptly to calls, but would like the city to provide a more obvious police presence to create a better sense of security.

He said his members are compassionate and understand offenders suffer from complicated issues such as mental health and addictions and “we don’t want to dump on the downtrodden any more than they already are.” But they are looking for solutions to the community-wide problems.

The special meeting will hear submissions from residents, business and stakeholders “to understand concerns related to public safety and violent crime citywide.”

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Members of the public can register to speak at the event, which will be live-streamed on Thursday beginning at 6 pm

Council will first hear from the city’s Homeless Outreach Team, Streets and Sanitation, the Vancouver police, and the Vancouver park board.

Representatives invited to make presentations include the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre, Destination Vancouver, Collingwood Community Policing Centre, West End Business Improvement Association, and the Union Gospel Mission.

Nicole Mucci said on Tuesday that she will speak for the mission’s clients and other marginalized groups, whom she said are themselves “often the victims of violent crimes.”

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“There are unfair assumptions of who the perpetrators are, and we are seeing increasing stigmatization of the people in the neighbourhood.”

Union Gospel Mission worker Nicole Mucci.
Union Gospel Mission worker Nicole Mucci. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

City staff will work with Vancouver police to come up with a plan by June “to address public safety concerns and issues.”

During the first three months of this year, there were two murders, 125 sexual offenses, 1,113 assaults and 158 robberies, compared with 18 murders, 638 sexual offenses, 4,630 assaults and 570 robberies in all of 2021, according to police statistics.

In 2011, there were 15 murders, 525 sexual offenses, 5,225 assaults and 1,059 robberies.

Meanwhile, during question period in the BC legislature on Tuesday, Prince George MLA Shirley Bond said Attorney-General David Eby is ignoring concerns from communities across BC about “increased random attacks, rampant theft and violent assault.”

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She said 13 urban mayors sent Eby a letter this month with data showing that few offenders are jailed for repeat crimes. One offender with 262 police files in the past year hasn’t been charged once, she said.

The letter detailed data including a jump in the average number of days to conclude a case to 185 days from 85 since 2017, a rise in the rate of no-charge assessments to 21 per cent from 12 per cent in 2017, and a drop in cases approved to go to court to 47,000 from 64,000 in 2017.

“Serious repeat offenders posing ongoing risk to public safety are walking freely in our communities while awaiting charge approvals,” Bond said, reading from the letter.

Eby said the “pandemic has dramatically changed crime patterns,” concentrating them in downtown areas.

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But he said property crime and overall crime rates in Vancouver are the lowest they have been since 2002, based on the number of crimes and as a rate per 1,000.

I have acknowledged that “in Vancouver, we’ve seen an increase in random, violent attacks.”

Eby and Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth are working with Vancouver police to identify “serious, prolific property offenders and people engaging in those random, violent attacks,” he said.

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