‘We’re going to go after them’: Window smashing in Vancouver up 40% since 2019, say police

Click to play video: 'VPD says ongoing project underway to tackle street violence'
VPD says ongoing project underway to tackle street violence
After an uptick in stranger attacks in the city, Vancouver's top cop says 'Task Force Agility' is targetting those responsible for street violence including unprovoked assaults and smashed windows. As Kristen Robinson reports, the VPD says glass breaks are up 40 percent since 2019 and shopkeepers are struggling to keep up with repairs – Feb 26, 2022

After reporting an uptick in unprovoked attacks last fall, Vancouver’s top cop says an ongoing operation dubbed “Task Force Agility” is targeting those responsible for the street violence plaguing the city.

“A lot of these people, we know who they are and we’re going to go after them on a precision basis using specialized resources,” Chief Const. Adam Palmer told the Vancouver Police Board Thursday.

Vancouver police say the city is averaging a staggering four random attacks per day, while store owners struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic are repeatedly facing smashed windows.

Since opening Unchai Thai Restaurant on Burrard Street in Kitsilano in 2019, Warisara Unchai and her husband have turned a hole in the wall into an award-winning eatery. Like many small business owners, however, they’ve been hit by crime with thieves striking their restaurant twice recently.

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“The first one, they tried to get inside at the back door,” Unchai told Global News.

Then on Feb. 13, someone drove up, parked outside and proceeded to smash through their glass front door — an incident caught on the restaurant’s surveillance cameras.

“They just break the window, get in and like, [were] looking for something but didn’t take anything,” said Unchai. “I don’t know why.

“That makes us feel like, very disheartened. All the bad is coming at the same time.”

Click to play video: 'VPD investigating 60 assaults over long weekend'
VPD investigating 60 assaults over long weekend

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the VPD says smashed windows or glass breaks have increased 40 per cent since 2019.

“We’re seeing glass breaks in the downtown core of the city where somebody is breaking a $20,000 pane of glass to steal a $250 item,” said Palmer on Thursday.

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Shopkeepers are replacing glass at a very high rate, he added — an expensive fix over what are often stolen goods of minimal value.

“Sometimes they’re getting the windows replaced only to have them broken again, or they’re not able to replace it because of the supply chain issues we’ve seen.”

Glass companies are also extremely busy repairing all the vandalized or broken glass doors.

The worst part for the shopkeepers, said Vancouver Glass’ Michael Peterson, is that replacement glass can take five to seven days to get manufactured. If the shattered door is the only access in and out of the business, he explained, a makeshift door needs to be created in order to secure the premises.

Peterson said his glass costs have gone up between 30 and 40 per cent due to the increase in incidents of vandalism and glass breakage.

Click to play video: 'B.C. woman criticizes North Vancouver RCMP for response to alleged sexual assault'
B.C. woman criticizes North Vancouver RCMP for response to alleged sexual assault

Dave Dove, president and owner of The Goods Screening & Apparel, a clothing and screen printing business in East Vancouver, said “people are desperate.”
While he said shoplifting decreased during the first year of the pandemic, his storefront in Hastings-Sunrise was broken into twice in two weeks last December.

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“The desperation that came after they lost those CERB payments really felt like it increased the amount of crime in the area,” Dove told Global News.

Two hats were stolen when Dove’s front window was smashed on Dec. 10. Six days later, jackets and clothing were taken when the side window was broken.

“Between both of them it cost us five grand in glass,” said Dove. “It definitely feels the like the VPD is stretched thin.”

Palmer said police are looking at chronic offenders and data analysis to determine where and when they need to deploy officers, including bike and foot patrols.

Community engagement and public education are also involved; Vancouver police set up pop-up safety tents set up in four areas of the city on Saturday, including Emery Barnes Park in Yaletown, the scene of a violent swarming attack over the Family Day weekend.

Vancouver police are also engaging with government officials, said Palmer. He and two of his deputy chiefs, Fiona Wilson and Howard Chow, met with three B.C. ministers last week to discuss crime issues in Vancouver, he said.

Sixty-four charges have been recommended since Task Force Agility began and more details will be released once the operation wraps up.


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