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Vancouver City Council looking into improving public lighting after idea from resident

Last Updated Feb 11, 2021 at 8:58 am PDT

A dimly lit alley near Hawks Avenue in East Vancouver Courtesy Kareem Gouda

Vancouver council has moved to look into the idea of improving public lighting in the city

Man who was victim of hate crimes in recent months says he had trouble describing his attackers because it was dark

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A member of Vancouver’s LGBTQ community is pleased council has moved to look into his idea to improve public lighting in the city, in the name of safety.

Eddy Elmer, who has been the victim of two hate crimes in Vancouver since the spring, says the move could improve public safety in Vancouver.

Elmer says he was walking in the city last May when a man chased him, called him a homophobic slur and threatened to put a bullet in his head.

He says he actually had a hard time telling police where he was, because several street lights were out.

“So it was quite a challenge for me to get my wits about me and report my location, and I also had quite a bit of trouble providing a description of the suspect,” says Elmer.

“Certainly, I hadn’t even seen the person approach me as I was walking in the area, and I know I’m not the only person who’s had instances like this.”

The VPD later arrested a suspect.

Elmer says better lighting can help people be more aware of their surroundings, and potentially prevent similar things from happening again.

Last month, Elmer was the victim of a separate hate crime that saw someone yell an anti-Semitic comment at him before physically attacking him, striking his legs and trying to punch his head.

The incident prompted him to write on Twitter that, “He no longer felt safe” in the city.

VPD later made an arrest in that case, too.

Elmer says there is research to suggest that better lighting can help reduce violent crime, and overall, make people feel safer.

“So, somebody could be living in a very safe neighborhood, but for whatever reason, you know, they’ve had a history of violence so they are hyper-vigilant when they go out, and that is the case for many people in the LBGTQ community, so better lighting just makes them feel safer.”

Elmer is a member of the city’s 2SLGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, and also Chair of the Public Safety and Aging sub-committees.

He brought the idea forward to the committee liaison, Vancouver City Councillor Lisa Dominato, who presented it to the rest of council. It passed unanimously.

“It takes courage,” says Dominato.

“This is exactly what we need to see, and that’s why I was really pleased to bring this forward to council on behalf of Eddy, but as well as on behalf of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. We’re accountable to the public.”

She says reporting from the VPD tells us that hate crimes appear to be on the rise in Vancouver.

“We can’t tolerate anything like that in our city, and it’s deplorable,” says Dominato. “I appreciate that Eddy took this on and brought this forward to Mayor and Council.”

Dominato says city staff will now get to work looking into this idea, and will come back to council with a report, although she doesn’t have a firm timeline on that.

Staff will be looking into the possibility of installing new lighting in poorly lit areas, including sidewalks and alleyways, but will also be analyzing things like relying on the 311 service to report lighting outages.