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Vancouver begins year with drop in violent crime, property crime

New data from VPD shows continuing downward trend of car break-ins.
Vancouver police data for the first two months of 2024 shows a decrease in violent crime and property crime when compared to the same period in 2023.

The first two months of 2024 saw a decrease in reported violent crime and property crime in Vancouver when comparing statistics for the same period in 2023, according to data recently posted to the Vancouver Police Department’s website.

The most significant drop in the violent crime category was the number of assaults, decreasing from 731 in January and February of 2023 to 670 for the same period this year, for an 8.3 per cent drop.

Overall violent crime — which includes homicides, attempted homicides, assaults, robbery and sexual offences — was down 6.7 per cent; police have cautioned that the number of sexual offences, which were up by two this year, is historically underreported.

Overall property crime saw a 7.1 per cent decrease to begin the first two months of the year, with a 27 per cent drop both in break-ins to businesses and car thefts. Break-ins to homes were down 2.5 per cent.

The biggest driver of Vancouver’s property crime reduction since the pandemic was declared in March 2020 has been break-ins to vehicles. The data shows a 16 per cent decrease this year, from 1,116 in January and February 2023 to 937.

In January, Glacier Media reviewed VPD crime data dating back to 2019 that showed 16,488 break-ins to vehicles that year. In 2023, the total was 7,171 — a downward trend police have attributed in previous reports and interviews to the pandemic’s effect on the type of crime.

Fewer people driving to work at the height of the pandemic was cited as a reason, along with fewer businesses being open and others operating on reduced hours. Schools and universities also operated online.

Abandoned calls

The same data review showed the total number of crimes reported to Vancouver police decreased from 56,807 in 2019 to 46,259 in 2023. That’s a decrease of 10,548 in a five-year span.

It's a trend that began in 2020 with 46,608 crimes reported, before dropping to 40,398 in 2021 and then climbing back up to 42,692 in 2022. Police have pointed to the thousands of calls residents continue to abandon each year when calling the VPD’s non-emergency line as a possible reason for the decline in reports.

The number of calls residents abandoned in 2022 to the non-emergency line operated by E-Comm reached 91,193, which was a 10-year high for the department. That number dropped to 55,223 in 2023.

Though down this year, violent crime has increased since 2019, with 6,256 crimes reported in 2023 — an increase of 451 over 2019, with assaults the main driver. Vancouver recorded 78 homicides over the past five years, including 15 in 2023.

The VPD data does not account for population growth during that span of time.

'Safe city'

Police Chief Adam Palmer and Mayor Ken Sim spoke to reporters last week about a series of incidents in the city, where a woman was sexually assaulted in Stanley Park and a 61-year-old man stabbed downtown in a so-called stranger attack.

On the same March 20th morning of the stabbing, police had to use a beanbag shotgun and Taser to arrest a knife-wielding man at Clark Drive and East Hastings. All three incidents prompted questions from reporters about whether Vancouver was still a safe city.

“I can assure you that despite these challenges, Vancouver is a safe city,” said Palmer, noting the drop in violent crime this year.

What isn’t reported in the data posted to the VPD’s website is the number of hate-motivated incidents, which increased from 202 in 2022 to 265 in 2023, a 31.2% increase, according to a report that went before the Vancouver Police Board in February.

Police said there was increased reporting from the 2SLGBTQ+, South Asian, and Jewish communities. In 2023, there were 48 recorded hate-motivated incidents against 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, compared to 30 in 2022.

“The VPD has been actively engaging with the 2SLGBTQ+ community by establishing a community liaison committee to continue to address underreporting in this community,” the report said.

Anti-Semitic incidents

Anti-Semitic incidents also increased, with 47 reported in 2023 compared to 29 in 2022. Prior to the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October 2023, an average of one anti-Semitic incident was reported to the VPD every two weeks on average.

“There were 33 incidents reported between Oct. 7 and Dec. 31, 2023, which reflects an average rate of 2.7 incidents per week or more than a five-fold increase in anti-Semitic incidents,” the report said.

“The VPD is actively working with community members and faith leaders to keep communities safe.”

Indigenous women and girls continue to be the most overrepresented victims of crime in Vancouver, according to the report. The evidence is based on the past 12 months of VPD data.

“This victimization data is consistent with earlier research which showed that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than other women in Canada and have a rate of violent victimization that is consistently double that of Indigenous males and significantly higher relative to the violent victimization rate of non-Indigenous women,” the report said.

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