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Vancouver police boosting presence in Yaletown after surge in resident complaints

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Vancouver police are redeploying resources in response to an uptick in complaints of crime and street disorder around Yaletown.

Concerns range from a growing trash problem to open drug use to people using parks and public spaces as toilets.

One area of particular concern is around the former Howard Johnston hotel on Granville Street, which is now being used to house many former residents of the Oppenheimer Park homeless camp.

Read more: Homeless camp at Vancouver’s Strathcona Park prompts new call for sanctioned tent city

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in calls for service in regards to disturbances, fights, weapons calls, open drug use,” said Vancouver police Insp. Rob Clarke.

Jennifer Li, a new mother, says she carries her infant on her chest in public now, after repeated incidents of people being aggressive towards her stroller.

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She and a few other moms in the area started a Facebook group, where she says she’s now heard multiple similar stories from her neighbours.

“People screaming and chasing after moms who are carrying newborns. Recently a video was forwarded to me of a man who was almost completely naked, jumping onto the top of a car,” she said.

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Li said she dreads the idea of having to teach her young child to be wary of aggressive people on the street, or explain why people are shooting up on public benches.

In response to a deluge of complaints, the VPD says it will be boosting bicycle patrols downtown to more closely engage with the community and have better access to alleys and parks.

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The department says it is also increasing regular patrols, and improving its connections with the staff at social housing shelters.

It says it is also working with the city, park board and BC Housing to raise residents concerns about “new or emerging public safety issues.”

Trish, one of the homeless people Global News spoke with in the area Friday, said government needs to deal with core issues like housing before conditions improve.

Read more: Vancouver police property crime crackdown nets 26 arrests, 150-plus charges recommended

“The housing that is offered to us, they’re disgusting buildings,” she said, adding that Mayor Kennedy Stewart should come down and see conditions for himself.

“Open up your eyes and look around you, because we’re all human, and being judged the way we are, it’s not going to help us,” she said.

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Li said that while she’s been happy with how receptive the VPD is to her neighbourhood’s concerns, she too thinks more structural solutions are needed.

“We’re not anti-homeless, we’re not anti-addict,” she said.

“To ask someone who has a mental illness and who is really vulnerable to figure out on their own this highly complex system doesn’t make sense to me.”