British Columbia

'How many times do we need to call in the same crime?' Vancouver residents frustrated by rise in break-ins

Within a two-week period, the residents of a condominium at the edge of downtown Vancouver have experienced at least four attempted break-ins — some successful — all committed, according to residents, by the same man.

Suspects used bolt cutters to break through building's metal parking gate in city's Crosstown neighbourhood

A photo from security footage shows a suspect cutting through the metal parking gate of a condo in Vancouver's Crosstown neighbourhood. Residents at this building say there has been an increase in crime in their neighbourhood. (Joel Rivera)

Within a two-week period, the residents of a condominium at the edge of downtown Vancouver have experienced at least four attempted break-ins — some successful — all committed, according to residents, by the same man.

These are a few examples of the crime experienced each week by residents of the building and others in the Crosstown neighbourhood, located near Chinatown bordered by Gastown to the north and False Creek to the south.

And residents say not enough has been done by the Vancouver Police Department, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board to address the safety issues.

"How many times do we need to call in the same crime that's happening over a period of two weeks …  before action is taken," said Joel Rivera, who has lived in the building since 2015.

Rivera's building, located between Shanghai Alley and Taylor Street, has multiple security cameras, which, he says, residents believe show the same man committing the break-ins.

Police have confirmed the cases but haven't narrowed it down to a single person, adding the videos don't clearly identify the suspect.

Rivera cites a list of methods people have used to illegally enter the building: they've scaled walls, snuck in while residents were entering or exiting, and used tools to hack their way into the parking garage.

Watch someone using bolt cutters on the building's metal parking gate:

Security footage from April 4 shows a suspect using bolt cutters to cut through the building's metal parking gate. 0:17

He says there have been numerous thefts, including stolen bikes.

Const. Jason Doucette, with the Vancouver Police Department, says police are working to identify potential suspects.

Rivera, who represents the strata, says many of the residents understand the neighbourhood has some safety concerns due to its proximity to the Downtown East side, which is the epicentre of Vancouver's addiction crisis.

But he has noticed crime has risen in the area over the past few months to the point where people no longer feel safe.

Joel Rivera says more needs to be done to address the rising crime in his neighbourhood. (Tristan Le Rudelier/CBC News)

Doucette wouldn't confirm or deny whether crime rates are up in Crosstown, but says "we do see the numbers go up and down through the year."

Rivera says people of all ages live inside the building bordering Shanghai Alley and Taylor Street, south of Pender and west of Carrall streets. He says it includes everyone from young families to working professionals and even an attached senior's home.

"It's tough when they have to look left and right over their shoulders to make sure they feel comfortable walking out of the door," he said.

A person raids the apartment building's recycling room:

Security footage from March 9 shows how one suspect was able to break-in to the building and access the recycling room. 0:23

Rivera recognizes the area's ongoing struggle with mental health and addiction treatment but says the needs of all community members need to be heard.

"There has to be a balance between taking care of the social issues and managing the concerns that are happening," he said. "And there has to be ownership of what's happening in our city, particularly in our area."

Senior assaulted while walking

Last week, a senior who lives at Harmony House, an assisted-living centre attached to the building, was assaulted. Many of her personal belongings were stolen, including her access card.

"We're very concerned," said Queenie Choo, chief executive officer of SUCCESS,  a social service agency, which operates the facility. 

"We want to make sure that they are safe and able to go … take a walk without the fear of people that could be attacking them."

Choo says safety and cleanliness around the neighbourhood have long been a concern. She says safety concerns are so bad in the area, the organization hired a private security company to patrol the neighbourhood.

Joel Rivera says his strata has now had to take extra measures to secure an inner part of the building's parking lot, which is already behind a secured metal gate entrance. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC News)

A greater police presence

Both Rivera and Choo say they would like to see a stronger police presence in their community. 

Doucette says he understands the residents' frustration but adds the police can't be everywhere at once.

"We are aware that this building is having issues, and we're going to do our best to help prevent these in the future."

Doucette says they are always trying to identify issues early to prevent them from snowballing into something bigger.

He says preventative measures such as removing valuables from vehicles and not allowing strangers to "piggyback" into your building, can make a big difference.

"The number one thing here is we want people to feel safe," he said.

Overall, Rivera says he loves his neighbourhood and its diversity but says there are social issues that need to be addressed.

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