Downtown crime falling: Group - Metro US

Downtown crime falling: Group

While outraged residents in False Creek North say nearby homeless shelters are dangerous and need to be shut down, some statistics show there’s been a significant reduction in crime since they opened.

The city created five temporary Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT) shelters in January, and downtown ambassadors have since noticed a dramatic reduction in street disorder at night, said Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement Association.

“It makes a lot of sense,” he said. “If you can provide people with a roof, feed them and (give them) … contact with health-care professionals, obviously there would be a decline in street-disorder issues.”

According to the ambassadors, an average of 180 people a month were seen sleeping on the street from September to December. That number has gone down to 18 since the shelters opened.

Gauthier said incidents of open drug use fell to about 40 a month from 140, and trespassing declined to around 50 incidents a month from an average of 300. The ambassadors also noted that overnight aggressive panhandling went to almost zero from about 50.

“I know the residents will accuse us of displacing these people and that’s not the case. You can’t explain that dramatic reduction by just that,” said Gauthier.

“It doesn’t say the concerns of the residents shouldn’t be addressed … The issue here is to manage the problem people.”

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