Business and community leaders in Vancouver’s Chinatown are pleading for more police resources to combat ongoing safety concerns fuelled by a rise in anti-Asian racism, social disorder, garbage and graffiti vandalism.
According to Vancouver police, the city is averaging an alarming four random attacks per day, and the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area (BIA) said fear of street violence is dissuading people from visiting or working in the neighbourhood.
In a presentation to the police board, Eng and Vancouver Chinatown Foundation chair Carol Lee said the measure of safety in their community has changed — the benchmark used to be whether your grandmother could walk down the street by herself, but Eng said he and Lee are now looking over their own shoulders.
“When Carol and I walk down the street and have to be cognizant that were not going to be randomly attacked by somebody. That threat is real and you just can’t put a dollar value on that.”
While other BIAs are spending money on promoting their neighbourhoods, Eng said half of Chinatown’s annual budget now goes to security. In 2021, for example, the bill for full-time security was $240,000.
The Vancouver Chinatown BIA is asking for increased police presence including foot patrols, more criminal charges, and a bubble zone around Chinatown for repeat offenders.
At the Feb. 24 meeting, Vancouver’s top cop indicated his willingness to help.
“Elderly people and business owners are not feeling safe in Chinatown,” said Chief Const. Adam Palmer. “They need some more help and we agree with you.”
Palmer told the police board that public safety is a shared responsibility as the city and social service providers also play a role to help tackle street disorder.
“We all need to work to do better in Chinatown because it’s concerning for all of us,” said Palmer.
Police are also urging citizens to report alleged incidents including vandalism.
Much of the graffiti that stains Chinatown’s heritage buildings won’t be reflected in crime statistics, police said, because the mischief goes unreported.
“We know that there’s lots of underreporting taking place because of the sense of hopelessness and helplessness,” Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow told Global News on Feb. 14.
“We need you to call us, we need you to report these incidents.”