With physical distancing and self-isolation measures being practiced, it appears some criminals are taking advantage of the situation of closed businesses and retail streets devoid of people and cars.
Calls for police service in Vancouver have gone down significantly, and there has been an overall decrease in crime in the city, as many people are now staying put at home instead of going to work or roaming out and about. This has also translated into less residential break-and-enters.
Overall, property crime has seen a 12% drop in recent weeks, but there has been an uptick in commercial break-and-enters with the changes to society. And as it turns out, a small number of individuals are responsible for many of the incidents of property crime.
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Sergeant Aaron Roed with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) told Daily Hive that between March 1 and 15, there were 20 commercial break-and-enters, but over the period from March 16 to 24 this increased to 35 incidents.
In response, he says the VPD has dramatically increased the number of officers that deal with property crime, specifically the incidents involving commercial properties.
The police now have multiple teams targeting problematic areas in the downtown peninsula, and other retail areas elsewhere in the city, including Broadway.
To the same end, the VPD is urging businesses and commercial property owners to take proactive measures in preventing their properties from being targeted by thieves and vandals.
Many closed businesses with storefronts have already boarded up their windows as a dramatic measure, and this is encouraged by the police.
Businesses that are closed are advised to remove merchandise from space altogether if they can, or at least move merchandise away from windows so that they cannot be seen. Computers and anything else of value, especially on desks, should be moved away so that they are not visible.
As well, window shutters to minimize visibility into commercial spaces are helpful, and if feasible an increase in lighting should be considered.
Other suggested measures include upgraded entrance locks and security systems.
If possible, a manned presence, while practicing physical distancing, would be helpful too, with staff present during daytime hours and private security during the overnight hours. Contracting private security may be expensive, but having multiple businesses in the same building or area pooling their resources together could reduce the financial burden.
Roed noted the VPD has also been working with the business improvement associations (BIAs), including the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), and the Robson Street Business Association (RSBA).
Both of these BIAs have funded and implemented enhanced security measures in their jurisdictions, with new overnight mobile patrols daily thwarting suspicious activity. The DVBIA’s patrols operate from 10 pm to 7 am, while the RSBA’s patrols are from 10:30 pm to 6:30 am.
With the VPD’s overall operations, Roed says the VPD is certainly continuing to investigate crime, but they are prioritizing their response. If there is not an immediate need for assistance, files will be generated over the phone. For all public safety calls, they will always respond immediately.
But he highlights the personal health safety challenges officers face while remaining law and order in the city during the epidemic.
While they are supplied with masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, officers cannot always practice physically distancing, as there are times when they need to be hands-on with individuals.
The VPD also has a pandemic working group educating all officers on a daily basis, with updated based on directives from the provincial health officer.