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Vancouver sees 7.3% property crime increase to begin 2023

Assaults, robberies see drop in first three months of year compared to same period in 2022
Vancouver police arrested a man near Science World in March after responding to a report of another man being robbed at knifepoint of his electric scooter.

Vancouver police have released data for the first three months of the year that show an increase in property crime but a decrease in assaults and robberies, when compared to the same period in 2022.

Property crime increased by 7.3 per cent from 7,533 incidents between January and March 2022 to 8,083 this year. Assaults decreased by 2.1 per cent from 1,119 incidents to 1,095, and robberies saw a seven per cent decline from 158 to 147.

What the data doesn’t show is the number of incidents in each of the three crime categories prior to the pandemic being declared in March 2020. Glacier Media analyzed available statistics on the VPD’s website for the first three months of each year, going back to 2019.

The five years of data show assaults steadily climbed from 930 between January and March 2019 to 1,095 reported this year. Robberies experienced a similar trend, increasing from 125 in the first three months of 2019 to 147 in 2023.

Property crime, however, saw significant decreases, with break-ins to homes dropping from 304 reports in the three-month period in 2019 to 191 this year. Break-ins to vehicles — the main driver of property crime — saw the biggest drop, with 1,756 recorded this year compared to 3,855 in 2019.

The data tells a story police began telling a few years ago when certain types of crime saw decreases, largely due to public health restrictions related to the pandemic and fewer people in the streets and working in offices.

A report that goes before the Vancouver Police Board Thursday said the uptick in property crime this year was expected as life as people knew it prior to the pandemic returns to some sort of normalcy.

Abandoned non-emergency calls reach 7,480

What police have previously noted, and highlighted again in the report, was the number of people who don’t bother to report crime or abandon calls to the police non-emergency line because of lengthy delays on the phone with the E-Comm dispatch centre.

“Under-reporting remains a serious concern as it reduces reported property crime numbers and impacts police response,” said the report, which noted 7,480 non-emergency calls were abandoned.

“This was down 60 per cent from [the first three months of 2022], where 18,680 of non-emergency E-Comm calls were abandoned. While this is an improvement, there is still a significant amount of abandoned calls.”

Other crimes that saw increases from 2019 to this year — between January and March — included break-ins to businesses (from 442 in 2019 to 515 this year), fraud cases (698 to 842), arsons (56 to 88), homicides (four to six) and reported sexual offences (146 to 217).

Police have noted sexual offences are often reported some time after they have occurred. This means that offences reported this year may have occurred prior to 2023; statistics show 19.6 per cent of sexual offences reported to the VPD in 2022 were historical and occurred in previous years.

The number of thefts remained steady in the past five years, with more than 2,000 reported over the first three months of each year between 2019 and 2023. The highest number recorded during that period was 2,873 in 2020; the lowest was 2,030 in the first three months of 2021.

This year, thefts totalled 2,841.

The report noted assaults consistently comprise more than three out of every four violent crimes in Vancouver, and therefore tend to drive the overall violent crime trend. Starting in 2020, the proportion of serious assaults increased to an average of 40 per cent of all assaults.

Hate crimes remain steady

Hate crimes reported to police remained almost the same, from 33 incidents in the first three months of last year to 34 for the same period this year.

“Three motivation categories saw increases: 2SLGBTQ+ [four to eight incidents], South Asian [from two to five incidents], and East and Southeast Asian [from seven to nine incidents],” the report said. “All other motivations saw decreases.”

While violent shoplifter incidents decreased 43.8 per cent from 80 incidents in the first three months of last year to 45 this year, it is a crime that police say continues to be a problem in Vancouver.

“Business owners are frustrated not only because they incur financial losses but also because employees are exposed to violence,” said the report, which noted a project police completed in February and March to crack down on shoplifters.

In "Project Barcode," police arrested 217 people who had a combined total of 4,695 previous convictions. A total of 278 criminal charges were recommended to Crown counsel. Police recovered $80,000 in stolen goods and seized 24 weapons.

Note: The crime statistics reported in this story do not account for population growth and whether that is a factor in increases in crime. The effect of homelessness, the overdose and mental health crises have also not been analyzed in the data, although police have released several in-depth reports in recent years regarding social issues and crime.

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