New study shows higher incidence of violent crime in poor Vancouver neighbourhoods, theft in wealthier ones

·2 min read
A woman is pictured walking past a shuttered restaurant in Vancouver in May 2020. A new study from Simon Fraser University has found that violent crimes have increased in more marginalized areas of the city during the pandemic.  (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A woman is pictured walking past a shuttered restaurant in Vancouver in May 2020. A new study from Simon Fraser University has found that violent crimes have increased in more marginalized areas of the city during the pandemic. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A new study co-authored by Simon Fraser University researchers has found a rise in violent crime in Vancouver's poorer neighbourhoods during the pandemic, while wealthier areas saw a small uptick in theft-related crimes.

"During the pandemic we found that overall, crime tends to increase more in marginalized areas within the city," said professor Martin Andresen in a statement.

Andresen and co-author Tarah Hodgkinson of Wilfrid Laurier University found that between March 1, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021, arson, assault, robbery and weapon-related offences increased in the downtown core, as well as in the neighbourhoods of Strathcona and Mount Pleasant.

Meanwhile, the average monthly number of theft incidents went down in all of Vancouver.

The central business district downtown and surrounding areas saw a decrease in theft of vehicle and theft from vehicle crimes, according to the study.

Andresen says this can be attributed to the fact that many businesses were closed during parts of the pandemic and employees had to work from home.

"For the people who ended up living in Vancouver and working downtown, they were no longer downtown which is where a lot of these crimes happened normally," he said.

However, more affluent neighbourhoods, like Kerrisdale, Dunbar-Southlands and West Point Grey saw a slight increase in theft-related incidents.

The researchers also found that people living in more disadvantaged areas experienced significant pandemic-related job loss.

Andresen and Tarah Hodgkinson tracked 10 types of crime across 22 neighbourhoods in Vancouver and used open-source data from the Vancouver Police Department and the City of Vancouver, and census data from Statistics Canada, to find out how socio-economic factors may have played a role in the increase in crime.

"What this shows here is that we need to be providing more support to these populations in Vancouver during an exceptional event like this pandemic, because they're the ones that get hit hardest," Andresen told CBC News in a phone interview.

In a press conference Wednesday, after being asked multiple times about safety concerns following a New Year's Eve attack on a young woman, Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he has full confidence in the Vancouver Police Department and that they're doing all they can to keep people safe.

"I do think Vancouver is safe. It's one of the safest cities in the world, however, we can always do more," he said.

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