British Columbia

VPD creates new unit to respond to calls previously deemed low priority

Deputy Chief Constable Howard Chow says the new team has been formed because of a VPD survey that found the "vast majority of Vancouverites" are concerned about crime.

The focus will be on street disorder and trouble spots like the DTES, Chinatown, Gastown and Granville strip

Vancouver police Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow says a new unit has been formed to address reports of low level crime that were previously not a priority for the force. (CBC)

The Vancouver Police department has formed a new response team to deal with low level crime and street disorder the department had previously not considered high priorities.

The move is the result of a survey commissioned by the VPD to gauge the public's perception of safety in the city.

"This team is going to be dealing with those lower priority calls like the person that's using drugs in the park, like the person that may be sleeping in your doorway and you can't get in or out of your building, like the person that may be scaring away your customers in front of your business," said Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow.

According to the VPD survey, 78 per cent of respondents are concerned about crime in the city, with 61 per cent saying they felt it was worse than last year.

Last month, the VPD reported 2020 crime levels were similar to that of 2019.

Chow said the VPD uses data and analytics on a daily basis to target crime hot spots, but that the hard data doesn't give police a sense of how people feel about neighbourhood safety on a day-to-day basis.

The new unit will focus on calls from neighbourhoods identified as trouble spots like the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, Gastown and the Granville Entertainment District.  

"It's important that we are transparent and give an accurate look at what we are facing here in the city. That's our job — my job as the operational deputy — that the public know the crime picture and safety picture that's out there in their neighbourhood."

Vancouver earmarked $340.4 million to fund the VPD budget for 2020, more than one-fifth of the city's entire operating budget.

During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, council approved a motion asking the force to take a one per cent budget cut to help with pandemic costs.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 6 to 14 by research company Leger. Of the 755 respondents, 48 per cent live in Vancouver, 28 per cent live and work in Vancouver, 13 per cent work or conduct business in Vancouver, and 11 per cent visit the city frequently.

A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample represented by a panel.  However, for comparative purposes, a probability sample of 755 respondents would have a margin of error of  plus or minus 3.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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