When a Crime Scene Looks Like a Movie Shoot….

Long strings of police tape closed Richards St, between Nelson and Helmcken, to both vehicle and pedestiran traffic this morning as police investigators scoured the scene of a multiple shooting last night during a concert.

Surfing through the radio stations on the way to work, it was interesting that the event spawned at least a couple of discussions about crime in Vancouver, the Tories’ proposed changes in gun-related crime laws, and so on. What it also spawned, however (at least on AM1410 talk radio) was a series of “Vancouver sure is scary” callers.

One call in particular made an impression on me, where a woman from small town BC mentioned that she and her teenage daughter spent a weekend in Vancouver recently, staying downtown near Granville St, and were so terrified they went to bed by 8pm every night. It really made me think about my neighbourhood.

Sure, there are some surly sorts wandering around after dark on Granville, but I’m wondering how much of the negative perception that out-of-town visitors have is based on socioeconomic or cultural xenophobia, and how much is based on any true danger. From my experience, the people most scary looking to small town folk (street homeless, the runaways, the skaters and goths, and even the vocal yet small-time dope dealers) are the most harmless. The people most likely to rob visitors are probably the ones visitors assume are safe because they look “normal,” and whom they may even be going to for help because they look the safest.

I find it ironic that if stiffer penalties for gun-related crimes do make the downtown streets safer, visitors like these won’t “see” a difference based on the downtown denizens wandering around, because they were watching their backs against the wrong ones in the first place.

7 Comments so far

  1. Meyer (unregistered) on May 5th, 2006 @ 1:42 pm

    Hell, I moved back to Vancouver with my girlfriend last year, after living 6 years in New York.

    We actually felt less safe in Vancouver than we did back in Manhattan, what with all the homeless people wandering around downtown Vancouver.

    After about a month the initial shock went away though, and we became desensitized to it.

    Still – Vancouver’s got an awful lot of homelessness. It’s quite shocking if you’re not from here.

  2. Maktaaq (unregistered) on May 5th, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

    Meyer, even though I agree that New York feels very safe, I don’t think it’s the homeless in Vancouver that are the cause of the problems.

    I’ve seen crimes-in-action in the Granville area a few times, once two in one day. Most times it’s been cleanly-dressed white boys.

    The same happened with different small business owners I know – they have all been robbed or beaten by well-dressed white males, not the homeless.

    I don’t know – should it be a case of “down with the rich”?

  3. Ariadna (unregistered) on May 6th, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    There may be a lot of homeless people in Vancouver, Meyer, but what of it? Do you think they’re packing? Well, they’re not. We have a few streets that are unesthetically pleasing but the down-and-out population in Vancouver is the most courteous and timid segment in Vancouver. I know this firsthand from volunteering with the homeless and frequenting afterhour parties in the downtown east side. Sometimes people will get out of hand but pay attention to what they’re doing and you’ll see that the only person they’re hurting is themselves.

  4. bcneocon.com (unregistered) on May 7th, 2006 @ 9:50 am

    Good points. I have lived downtown for 11 years and have never ONCE felt unsafe or threatened. Granted I’m a dude, I’m sure women have a different experience, but my world = safe and happy. I love downtown Vancouver.

  5. Meyer (unregistered) on May 7th, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    Sorry folks, but I never said that the homeless people were dangerous.

    My point was that there are a lot around in Vancouver – noticeably more than in other cities – and that as someone who hasn’t lived in Vancouver for awhile, it is quite a shock to see at first.

    And although you may have anecdotal stories of middle class white kids accosting others, I’ve got a few anecdotal stories of heroin addicts robbing average citizens.

    One happened to me – the guy tried to force his way into my car, after using the “my car broke down, can you drive me to a gas station?” routine. (This was nearby the corner of Robson and Denman!)

  6. Ryan (unregistered) on May 8th, 2006 @ 11:08 am

    Drug dealers/addicts are different from homeless people. Sure there’s crossover, but they’re not all the same. When I lived in the West End, it wasn’t the homeless people around that made me want to move, it was the rich drug dealers in my building who forgot their gun in the stairwell and caused a police raid one night. I lived in the West End for 4 years, and I can think of more instances of rich punks being more intimidating than the homeless people.

  7. Jim (unregistered) on May 8th, 2006 @ 5:26 pm

    Last week I was struck by the inverse – “when a movie shoot looks like a crime scene”.

    It’s the middle of the night, the streets are blocked off, there are police cars everywhere, and you see a single car parked alone in the middle of the street. It looks like quite a “police situation”…

    Then you notice all the floodlights.

    FWIW, I just moved back to Vancouver after 6 years in California. I think the homeless situation has gotten a lot worse here (although not as bad as in California, where it’s absolutely terrible).

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