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Vancouver police refute ‘spike’ in crime near new housing projects

Some residents near the former Quality Hotel on Howe Street in Vancouver say they want the supportive housing project to end.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail is taking a look at statements in the news and testing them for truthfulness.

"There has already been a documented spike in crime since the opening of the shelter at 900 Pacific." – North False Creek Business and Residents Association, petition at change.org.

Some North False Creek residents say two new housing projects in their neighbourhood are creating more crime in the area, but police records show there hasn't been much variation since the services were introduced.

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A group of residents launched a petition last month, asking the city to remove the housing projects from the area, citing concerns about increased crime.

But Vancouver police say there hasn't been any noticeable increase in the number of calls coming from the winter shelter at 900 Pacific St. Spokesman Constable Brian Montague said there was one call in September, two in October, one in November, and two so far in December.

The 40-bed shelter on Pacific Street opened in early October and will close no later than April 30, 2015.

The petition also refers to the more recent introduction of temporary housing at the former Quality Hotel at 1335 Howe St. Temporary housing is a type of supportive housing that provides services for those who are looking for permanent housing. Units at the old Quality Hotel opened in early November and the city is leasing the building for two years.

Veronica Madore, a member of the association who started the petition, said residents are concerned their neighbourhood isn't a suitable location for people who need a variety of social services.

"There isn't enough support in that area," said Ms. Madore. The petition said the temporary housing project on Howe Street is staffed with two workers.

The city confirmed to The Globe and Mail that there are two workers at 1335 Howe St. at all times and more staff is available to tenants during the day, offering psychiatric and health services.

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Constable Montague told The Globe and Mail the Vancouver Police Department has received five calls from 1335 Howe St. since temporary housing operations started there on Nov. 8.

Five calls in a month for a building with 157 units is not unusual, Constable Montague said. He said the police department receives a similar number of calls for some apartment buildings in the West End, which are of a similar size.

Speaking about the number of reported incidents in the two-block radius around 1335 Howe St. for October and November, he said, "there is a little bit of variation but nothing that would suggest a real spike."

But Constable Montague acknowledged that the statistics don't always reflect what residents are seeing or feeling. He noted that some incidents are not reported to the police.

Ms. Madore suggested the shelters should be moved to the Downtown Eastside where there is a concentration of services for the community there. "That's where the millions of dollars of taxpayers' dollars are going to support the people on the street," she said.

Urban and community planning experts say that concentrating services in the Downtown Eastside is not the answer.

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"The thing is, the issue of homelessness is not just in the DTES. You go to any arterial road, you see people lying on the street at night," said Penny Gurstein, director at University of British Columbia's school of community and regional planning.

In fact, living outside of the Downtown Eastside may be beneficial for people who are struggling with addiction or require subsidized housing, she said. "They may want to be in the general community and that might help them stabilize their lives."

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