Now that a delegation of Vancouver Police and business leaders is back home after a trip south of the border to examine the revitalization of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the focus has shifted to how to apply what they learned, and get the city and community to invest in a safer Vancouver Chinatown.
The group wrapped its tour in San Francisco with a debrief from the city’s police chief at the Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground gymnasium on Aug. 31.
“I know we have some of the same challenges,” Chief William Scott told the delegation.
Scott said he plans to send some of his members north to see what Vancouver is doing in terms of policing.
“These types of partnerships also are part of the solution in my opinion cause nobody knows it all, and what works for you all may work for us and vice versa.”
Vancouver’s Chinatown is struggling with safety concerns.
People are afraid to visit the area due to random attacks on seniors, street disorder and open drug use.
A block away, the Downtown Eastside remains the historic neighbourhood’s biggest challenge.
But the hope is to build on the vibrancy of San Francisco’s Chinatown, which includes beautified laneways, bustling streets, graffiti removal within 24 to 48 hours, and a sense of safety.
“It’s inspirational that we could also achieve this, because it wasn’t always like that down here,” Vancouver Police Department Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow told Global News in an interview.
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“If we work as a community…with the merchants, with the landlords, with the associations, with the VPD, with the city, we can get that done in a much more productive way,” added Vancouver Chinatown Foundation executive advisor William Hung.
“And that’s what they’ve done here in San Francisco.”
It wasn’t easy but after struggling with some of the same issues as Vancouver in recent years, San Francisco’s Chinatown bounced back – thanks to passionate community volunteers invested in change, and police officers who’ve bonded with business owners.
A regular shift of beat cops patrol San Francisco’s Chinatown – some of whom speak both Cantonese and Mandarin.
“I think it’s what we reimagined what Chinatown would be,” said Vancouver Chinatown BIA president Jordan Eng.
“Beat cops on the street in Chinatown, getting to know the merchants and really developing that sense of trust,” added Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden executive director Lorraine Lowe.
Local government needs to support the effort financially in order to see real change, Lowe said.
“The leadership has to come from the top from city hall to embrace that sort of relationship,” Eng told Global News.
“I’m absolutely sure we can get there,” said Vancouver Chinese Cultural Centre Vice-Chair Bill Kwok.
“We saw what happened here in San Francisco and I think that’s something that’s going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight and it’s working together as a community, and then from that, anything is possible.”
“It needs resourcing, it needs funding, but it also needs a commitment from the community that’s going to step up as well,” said Chow.
Chow also said the public will not be footing the bill for the delegation’s four-day trip.
“It’s not funded by taxpayers,” Chow told Global News.
“It’s funded by the police foundation and donors that have a vested interest in Chinatown because they want to see the issues and challenges fixed.”
Lily Ho, the founder of the San Francisco non-profit ‘Delta Chinatown Initiative’, met with the group during their tour and had this advice for Vancouver.
“Don’t give up, this is an effort that takes an entire community,” said Ho.