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‘Worst I have ever seen it’: Vancouver business owner says city not taking crime seriously

Click to play video: 'Vancouver business owner shocked by language in city report' Vancouver business owner shocked by language in city report
WATCH: A Vancouver business owner says a report by city staff uses words like 'white supremacy' and 'racism' when discussing cracking down on crime in the city. Paul Johnson reports – Mar 3, 2022

As Vancouver played host to a town hall on public safety Thursday, a downtown business owner is speaking out, saying crime is “the worst I have ever seen it.”

John Clerides, who owns Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street, has been tracking broken windows and property crime in the city on Twitter in recent months, after his own business was broken into and had its delivery e-bike stolen last year.

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“Random assaults, window breakage, mass amount of shoplifting, theft, human defecation, people living on the street,” he said.

“How is it a compassionate society, a wealthy society, allows people to get like that?”

Statistics show Vancouver’s overall crime rate actually dropped between 2020 and 2021, with a marked drop in property crime citywide — including double-digit decreases in commercial break-ins in all districts.

Violent crime, however, has increased — particularly downtown, where sex offences were up 20 per cent and assaults and robberies were each up by about 12 per cent.

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

Broken windows are also up by 40 per cent since 2019, while the city is witnessing an estimated four random assaults per day and an uptick in violent shoplifting incidents, according to Vancouver police.

The situation has left Clerides palpably frustrated, and he told Global News he believes Vancouver’s mayor, council and city staff don’t take the issue seriously.

To illustrate his point, he referenced a recent memo from Vancouver’s planning commission, which asked councillors not to “succumb to a narrow definition of public safety that prioritizes the wealthy and business interests over those most struggling.”

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Municipal officials, he argued, have thrown police under the bus while focusing on issues outside of their jurisdiction at the expense of public safety.

“They’re looking at international events, international happenings,” he said. “They’re taking their eye off core services, public safety, streets, lighting.”

Across the street from Marquis, the Home Hardware has been forced to install massive security cages to protect high-value items that in most stores would be accessible to the general public.

That measure caught the interest of Peter Meiszner, a candidate for council with the new A Better City slate, who posted an image to Twitter.

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Meiszner said he’s lived downtown for 14 years, but has seen a noticeable shift in the area recently.

“I’ve been in situations where people have jumped out at me, lunged at me, I’ve been spit on before,” he said.

“Just things that never happened for the previous decade that I was living downtown. This has really been in the last few years that there’s been a dramatic change in how I’m feeling and how my neighbours are feeling.”

Read more: ‘Mostly ineffective’: B.C.’s safe supply program not meeting the need, say advocates

Meiszner said issues like racism are very real, but the solution is for police and community groups to work in partnership, not to remove the VPD from the public safety equation.

He said the city should also be pushing the province to shake up the current system addressing drug and homelessness issues, arguing both problems have only increased year over year, despite millions of dollars poured into local non-profits.

Global News requested comment from Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart for this story, but did not receive a response by deadline.

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