‘Street disorder’ hampering Strathcona businesses
Businesses in Strathcona are worried about the presence of street people impacting their stores, and the local business improvement association says police are slow to respond to groups of drug dealers mingling around their properties. In this photo: the 300 block of East Hastings Street in Vancouver, B.C. on Sunday April 13, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
"It’s important to also recognize that 87% of business owners and managers were satisfied with the service provided by VPD — a nine-point increase since 2012."
— Const. Brian Montague
Hours-long wait times for police, drug dealers peddling their products on street corners and the lack of a community police centre are among the reasons Strathcona shop owners are feeling unsafe, according to a local business association.
Vancouver Police Department’s 2013 citizen satisfaction survey finds businesses are feeling the heat as concerns are growing about “street disorder” and whether police can respond quickly.
While the majority of Vancouver businesses feel safe — it’s when neighbourhoods east of downtown, also known as District 2, are examined that a problem emerges.
According to the survey, 37% of businesses in the areas of Strathcona, Grandview-Woodlands and Hastings-Sunrise feel unsafe.
Those who were polled pointed out homelessness, panhandlers and drug activity as the biggest reasons.
Joji Kumagai, executive director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, told 24 hours they’ve been asking the VPD for a community policing centre for some time.
There’s one to the south in Chinatown, Grandview-Woodland’s Commercial Drive has one, and there’s another to the east in Hastings-Sunrise.
But despite those discussions, Kumagai said, the Strathcona neighbourhood has just one liaison police officer for a “very large area.”
In the meantime, Kumagai said, a “thriving underground trade” is operating at all hours of the day and turning customers away from legitimate businesses nearby.
“Drug dealers in the area … are pretty much flaunting any rules or societal norms, they are so open and brazen about what they’re doing,” he said.
“(Police response is) typically a few hours. A lot of times by that time it’s dispersed. They’ll make a note of it … but I don’t necessarily feel it’s going to be dealt with at that time.”
Vancouver police Const. Brian Montague said 90% of the business owners who did deal with police were happy about the service they received.
“The numbers in the survey, together with numbers that show year after year over the last decade that property crime and violent crime numbers have fallen dramatically, would indicate that the VPD is doing a good job,” he said.
“Two years in a row Vancouver has had historic low homicides. We continue to find ways to improve how we can reduce crime and increase the perception of safety among businesses and residents.”