It was during the morning of November 9 that the band Quantum Tangle found out through their tour crew that their equipment had been stolen hours earlier outside The Cultch, the day of their first of three shows in Vancouver.
The thieves had used a bolt cutter to break the padlock of the U-Haul vehicle parked outside the east Vancouver venue, taking with them the band’s guitars, pedals and a microphone.
Despite reporting the crime to the police, flagging their items at pawn shops and asking their fans for help through Facebook, the band could not find their items anywhere.
Their experience is one that more and more people in Vancouver are having, as theft rates have doubled in some parts of the city in the past five years.
An ongoing trend
In Grandview-Woodland, where The Cultch is located, there were 506 reports of items stolen from cars between January and October this year, compared to 237 for the same period in 2012, an increase of a 113 per cent over five years.
That spike is happening at the same time that theft from cars has gone up by 146 per cent in the downtown area during the same period, while Vancouver overall has seen all types of theft reports increase in general by 45 per cent.
Between January and October 2017, there were 18,000 reports citywide, compared to the 12,344 in 2012 for the same period.
Some neighbourhoods like Kerrisdale have had fewer theft reports, others have maintained their numbers, like West Point Grey, and there are those, usually close to downtown, that have seen the greatest increase.
At least one type of theft has doubled between 2012 and 2017 in several neighborhoods. For Arbutus Ridge, Renfrew-Collingwood and Hastings-Sunrise, it’s bike thefts. In Killarney, Marpole, and Victoria-Fraserview, it’s thefts of property that people have left out in public.
The most affected area
The most affected neighbourhood has been downtown itself. It has had 6,069 theft reports this year between January and October, compared to the 3,046 of 2012 for the same period.
“People go to Starbucks and leave their backpack on their chair and
it’s gone by the time they get back with their coffee,” said Danny Gelmon, program manager at the Granville Community Policing Centre.
That kind of theft has increased by 79 per cent over the last five years. But it’s still not the main concern.
“Theft from auto. That’s our biggest issue.” explained Gelmon. “If (people) leave something such as a plug for their iPhone, (thieves) smash the window, that’s a $300-dollar deductible, they’ll take that $30-dollar cord and sell it for $2 dollars on Hastings Street.”
Theft from cars has increased by approximately 146 per cent over the last five years — 3,523 reports in 2017 compared to the 1,431 in 2012.
Likeliness of having something stolen
While the numbers appear startling, there are some mitigating factors.
Thefts downtown are up, but that’s happened as the population has boomed, as the number of people working in the central core has increased, and as the proportion of people willing to report crime has increased.
“Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people come into the downtown core every day to work, to shop, to visit and to enjoy sporting events. It is what we call a target-rich environment.” said Const. Jason Doucette, media-relations officer at the Vancouver police department
Vancouver’s centre, which comprises downtown, the West End, Stanley Park and False Creek, had a population increase of 13 per cent between 2011 and 2016, growing to 116,000 people from 102,000.
There has also been an slight increase in the percentage of people, 65 per cent in 2016 compared to 63 per cent in 2011, who reported crimes in District 1, comprised of Stanley Park, the West End and downtown.
Metro Vancouver data and projections show a 20.6-per-cent increase in jobs downtown in the same period to 425,000.
Problems are uneven throughout downtown
But some community representatives say they don’t see signs of more problems.
Nicole Corrado, co-ordinator at Yaletown Business Improvement Association, hasn’t noticed an increase in the area.
“Yaletown is a bit of a bubble.” she explained.
Nonetheless, she notes that there are still areas that represent a higher risk for people and businesses.
“We have security guards walking around in Yaletown and what we try to do is activate the spaces that are dark.” said Corrado. “Helmcken Park (is) probably our worst spot.”