The Vancouver Police Department said in a release on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 that 49 per cent of the 453 firearms seized in the city so far this year were found in Oppenheimer Park and the Downtown Eastside. (Vancouver Police Department)

Police warn of escalating violence, weapons in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park

Officers issue statement about high crime in the area that includes a homeless camp

Almost half of the guns seized by Vancouver police so far this year were found in Oppenheimer Park and the Downtown Eastside.

In other words, 223 of the 453 firearms seized within the city were found in the homeless camp at the park and surrounding neighbourhoods, police said in a release on Thursday.

Police intelligence also indicates gangs are vying for territory within the park.

“Since the beginning of the year, there has been a significant spike in crime and street disorder stemming out of Oppenheimer Park, and sprawling into the Downtown Eastside,” said Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow.

“We are seeing a substantial increase in violent crime, and officers have seized a significant amount of weapons, including firearms.”

READ MORE: Fewer than half of Oppenheimer Park campers agree to leave as eviction deadline looms

Chow said the numbers work out to almost an average of one gun seized per day.

“In my 30-plus years with the VPD, I have never seen such high numbers of weapons seized in one district alone,” he said, adding that he is concerned about high levels of aggression toward police.

Assaults against police officers in the district have gone up by 68 per cent compared to 2018 – from 19 incidents to 32.

This past weekend, bystanders threw bottles at officers as they were responding to a call in the park.

Earlier in July, police expressed concern about the deteriorating level of public safety in the area when an officer was kicked in the knee as she tried to remove a man who had jumped onto a garbage truck. A 31-year-old man was also found with a gunshot wound near Powell Street and Jackson Avenue.

Overall, emergency calls for police to the park increased by 87 per cent from June to August, compared to last year.

READ MORE: Officer assault, shooting at Downtown Eastside park spark concerns by police

The City of Vancouver issued an eviction notice on the morning of Aug. 19 to more than 200 homeless people residing at the park. They were told to clear out by 6 p.m. on Aug. 21.

Less than half of the people living at the camp agreed to leave by mid-afternoon, even as the deadline to leave the park was approaching.

On Sept. 4, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he wanted the Park Board to temporarily transfer jurisdiction of the park over to the city. In turn, Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon requested that the mayor outline how transferring jurisdiction of the park would enable a return to normal operations.

Mackinnon further announced on Sept. 6 that the Park Board would not seek an injunction to evict people from the park. He made the announcement at a press conference, also requesting the formation of a multi-jurisdictional task force on homelessness.

READ MORE: Inside Victoria’s tent city: ‘I’m still human’

Tent city liaison Chrissy Brett told Black Press Media she believes safety concerns expressed by police are a Downtown Eastside issue rather than a park issue.

“When I, as a grandma with absolutely no weapons, can stay half the week [in the tent city] … how is it they can characterize this place as being so scary?” she asked.

“Oppenheimer has always been a place where … people have felt at home.”

Brett said she is working with the Park Board on the multi-jurisdictional task force initiative, and invited the mayor and police to also join and “discuss everyone’s safety,” including campers.

Black Press Media has also reached out to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart for comment.



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

People’s Party of Canada not finished, defeated Surrey candidate says

Surrey’s five PPC candidates combined received 4,213 votes

Player-of-year Seumanutafa leads UBC to women’s rugby title

Semiahmoo grads help Thunderbirds to first-ever Canada West rugby title

Diwali in Surrey: ‘Festival of light’ celebrations at several halls, a library, other venues

This year Diwali is on Sunday, Oct. 27, but Surrey-area events are held over a two-week period

Surrey City Centre plan expands to include new proposed SkyTrain station

New developments in business district to provide minimum 50% of floor space for office, institutional uses

Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, as NDP and Bloc hold cards close

While Liberals were shut out of two key prairie provinces, they took two-thirds of the seats in Ontario

VIDEO: Man in his 20s in hospital following shooting in Abbotsford

Incident takes place Tuesday night in 31700 block of South Fraser Way

Horvat’s hat trick lifts Canucks to 5-2 win over Red Wings

First career three-goal game for Vancouver captain

Saanich Gulf-Islands’s Elizabeth May coy about leadership plans

The federal Green party leader talks possibility of running as MP without being leader

Feds finally decriminalizing drugs possible – but it’s up to Jagmeet Singh, expert says

National pharmacare was one of Singh’s most highly-touted platform policies

Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

Langley transgender woman Jessica Yaniv was ordered to pay three salon owners $2,000 each

Two youth arrested in UBC carjacking at gunpoint, after being spotted in stolen Kia

‘A great deal of credit is due the alert person who called us,’ said North Vancouver Sgt. Peter DeVries

People’s Party of Canada’s anti-immigration views ‘didn’t resonate’ with voters: prof

Party was formed on anti-immigration, climate denying views in 2018

Windstorm knocks out power for 10,000 in north and central B.C.

Power slowly being restored, BC Hydro says

Most Read