VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An increase in weapon seizures and violent crimes has the Vancouver Police renewing safety concerns around parts of the city.
In particular, the VPD is sounding the alarm — again — over what it’s described as a “significant spike in crime and street disorder stemming out of Oppenheimer Park.”
The park was home to hundreds of homeless people this summer, and while residents received bylaw notices to leave the tent city in August, many have stayed.
According to the VPD, officers have seized 453 guns from Vancouver’s four districts — one of which includes, but is not limited to, Oppenheimer Park.
Fourty-nine per cent of those seizures apparently took place in “district two,” an area that covers “five west-to-east city blocks from Cambie to Gore, and two south-to-north blocks, from Pender to Cordova.”
Those seizures were not isolated to only the Oppenheimer Park-area — which makes up a “city block” within the district, but the large number of weapons recovered by officers in the entirety of “district two” is a concern, according to VPD Deputy Chief Constable Howard Chow.
“In my 30-plus years with the VPD, I have never seen such high numbers of weapons seized in one district alone,” Chow says in the release. “The numbers almost average out to one gun seized each day so far this year. I am also very concerned about the high levels of aggression we are seeing towards police.”
According to the VPD, assaults against police officers this year have gone up by 68 per cent in all of “district two.” While it’s unclear just how many of these incidents actually took place at Oppenheimer Park, police say bystanders threw bottles at officers who were responding to a call in the park just last weekend.
The VPD suggests gangs are vying for territory around the park, creating a “dangerous and volatile situation” for those living there as well as nearby.
Emergency calls to Oppenheimer Park increased by 87 per cent from June to August of this year, compared to data from 2018, numbers from the department show.
This isn’t the first time the VPD has raised concerns about safety around Oppenheimer Park. This past summer, Vancouver police said they were concerned about “a sharp increase in the level of violence in and around the encampment at Oppenheimer Park.”
In addition to the 223 guns seized in district two between January and August of this year, Vancouver police say 227 guns were seized in the three other districts. Three guns were not attributed to a district.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that District two includes, but is not limited to, Oppenheimer Park. It’s unclear how many of the 223 guns seized in district two were from Oppenheimer Park itself. We apologize for the confusion.