Volunteers stepping up amid spike in Vancouver property crimes

Volunteers in Vancouver are stepping their efforts as the city continues to see a rise in property crimes.

On Saturday morning, members of the Hastings Sunrise Community Policing Centre could be seen laying down fresh coats of paint on large walls full of graffiti.

"In the past two years, we've noticed that the graffiti has increased quite a bit,” Sampson Hsieh told CTV News.

Hsieh is the head volunteer for the centre’s graffiti removal program, a program he says has been around for over 20 years, but is needed more now than ever.

"The graffiti program was originally just on Wednesdays, and we actually upped it to three days a week during its peak,” said Hsieh.

According to quarterly stats from the Vancouver Police Department, property crimes in District Two – which includes Hastings-Sunrise, Strathcona, Grandview-Woodland and the Downtown Eastside – were up 26.5 per cent compared to quarter one of last year. 

City-wide, such crimes were up 25.4 per cent.

It's bad news for local businesses still trying to recover from the pandemic.

"Many of them struggled to survive, and now their revenues are being impacted by having to paint out graffiti, by having to replace windows, by having their products stolen,” said Patricia Barnes, executive director of the Hastings North Business Improvement Association.

While violent crime in the city was up just 1.5 per cent in quarter one, Barnes says the perception of downtown is keeping some customers away.

"The perception of safety is extremely important, if somebody does not believe they're going to be safe in an area, how willing are they going to be to go to that area?" said Barnes.

A community clean-up effort also took place Saturday in Vancouver’s West End.

The theme of the event was “Neighbours helping Neighbours,” with the goal to make the West End a better place to live.

"There are smaller groups that do their blocks or a couple blocks, I know some seniors who have adopted their block and they do it every week and they have been for years,” said Spencer Chandra-Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West End.

Next Saturday, June 4, the Hastings-Sunrise CPC Community Cleanup will be back out in action. Those interested in volunteering can visit the group's website