When I think of Victoria Park near Commercial Drive, I think of bocce players.
I think of warm summer days, families in the park, etc.
On the park board’s website, the slice of green heaven at 1401 Victoria Dr. is described as being tucked into a vibrant neighbourhood and being almost always full of activity.
“Stop to enjoy a lively game of bocce, or sit quietly under the trees and listen to the birds,” goes the write-up.
Heck, the park even got redeveloped in 2008 and features pathways, lighting, picnic tables, a new playground, an arbour and new drainage.
But, apparently, Victoria Park isn’t the oasis it seems.
As I often do, I checked the Freedom of Information request section on the Vancouver Police Department’s website and discovered this week a different tale about the park.
As resident shutterbug Dan Toulgoet is prone to say upon discovering some potentially shocking news: Ay caramba!
The VPD has posted 15 full pages of calls it responded to at the park between Oct. 1, 2008 and Oct. 1, 2013. I couldn’t be bothered to count every call — my eyes can’t take that — but with about 60 per page…multiplied by 15… well, that’s 900 calls.
The description of the calls included: drugs, check well-being [of person], weapon, fight, assault in progress, liquor act, indecent act, robbery in progress, intelligence information, suspicious circumstances, theft, man down, breach the peace, domestic in progress, suspicious vehicle and threats.
By far, the most popular calls were for “annoying circumstances” and “disturbances.” The reports, unfortunately, don’t say whether the calls came in during the day or at night.
Whether the call load is unprecedented or normal for a park, I don’t know that, either. So I called up Adrian Archambault, the program coordinator of the Grandview-Woodland Community Policing Centre.
He wasn’t aware of the stats, so I pointed him to the VPD’s website. He had a look and had more questions than answers, although he described the park as safe — for a six-foot white guy, he added. “I guess it depends who you talk to,” he said, when asked whether the park has lost its purpose. “The park, hopefully, should be for everybody and we want to address the concerns for people who live around it.”
Archambault and a police officer have visited with neighbours whose homes look out onto the park. They were told to call police if they had concerns about activity in the park.
“There are people who live near the park who are what I would describe as hyper-vigilant and would call about anything,” he said when asked to put 900 calls into perspective. “For one thing, I want to know who made the calls because some of these people would call the police every day. But is the activity anomalous? I’m not sure.”
Without a breakdown of police calls for all parks in Vancouver — something that would require another Freedom of Information request — Archambault probably won’t get an answer to his question anytime soon.
In the meantime park-goers, do enjoy the birds and the bocce.