British Columbia

There's been an increase in loud banging noises near the Downtown Eastside, but police don't know why

Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry has asked the city to look into the rise of the noises which most believe are bear bangers — a noisy flare used in the wilderness to scare off bears. 

They happen at all hours of the night, but there’s been no increase in complaints to authorities

Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood has been the centre of a surge in explosive-type sounds that are happening more often at all hours of the day. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

If you think there's been an increase in explosion-like sounds around downtown Vancouver lately, you're not alone. 

Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry has asked the city to look into the rise of the sound, which most believe are bear bangers — a noisy flare used in the wilderness to scare off bears. 

Fry has lived in and around the Strathcona neighbourhood for three decades and says he's never heard them more often than in the past few weeks. 

"Bear bangers actually do have the potential to cause harm depending on the type of model," he said.

"If they're being indiscriminately used throughout the city, not only is it jarring and upsetting for folks, but somebody might actually get hurt."  

Green Party Coun. Pete Fry said the loud bangs in his Strathcona neighbourhood are at an all-time high. (Cliff Shim/CBC)

All across downtown

While the noises appear to be concentrated near Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside, they've also been heard in Chinatown, Crosstown and as far as the West End at all hours of the day, causing plenty of angst in several communities.

"We're all hearing it and it's interrupting our sleep. You never know when it's going to go off" said Heather Donily, a Strathcona co-op resident.

"Is that a bear banger, a firework, a gunshot? There's a sense of panic when you first hear it."

Donily said members of her co-op have let police know about the noises, and that it is bringing extra worry during a time where crime in the area has increased.

But she also understands it's not the easiest problem to solve. 
"I'm really not sure how the police are supposed to be dealing with it. By the time they would get out there, they wouldn't be able to do anything about it anyways."

Police say call 311 

Vancouver Police Department Sgt. Aaron Roed said despite social media comments, they haven't received more complaints about bear bangers than usual.

"But this is something we're taking very seriously, because we don't want people misinterpreting this for shots fired," he said. 

While Fry said he's heard speculation the bangers are used to help arrange drug deals, Roed said, the police don't know why they're being used.

However, both say people should call Vancouver's 311 phone line, saying that more complaints will lead to better data — and hopefully, enough clues over who is behind the noises. 

In the meantime, Donily says she'll continue to sleep on edge. 

"It's really anxiety inducing," she said, "hearing things that could be gunshots going off in your neighbourhood."


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