If Anita Place Tent City is not included, there’s been a “very slight increase” in the number of calls to police from the Port Haney area, just south of Lougheed Highway in the downtown, say Ridge Meadows RCMP.
According to a RCMP report to council, there were 144 calls for service in May 2 to July 12, 2015 – from the Port Haney area bounded by the Haney Bypass, 225th Street, North Avenue and the Fraser River.
In 2016, during the same time period, there were 216 calls.
From May 2 to July 12 of this year, cooinciding with the opening of tent city, there were 271 calls, an increase of 55 over 2016 – or a jump of 25 per cent.
However, police point out that most of those calls (42) involved people in the camp, while 13 came from outside the camp.
“What we can share is that, by our reports and data, generally most criminal incidents in the area of the camp are between the camp residents themselves (camper on camper),” Supt. Jennifer Hyland said in a release last week.
“This is not meant to imply that everything is rainbows and lollipops,” Hyland said.
“We acknowledge that this has been tough for residents and business owners.
“We understand there is a larger social impact which our data is not capturing. We ‘get it’ that these are difficult times.”
RCMP also still want businesses and residents in the area to call them about issues, even if they’re not sure that police can directly help. If that’s the case, police will direct them to the right agency or city department. “The point is, call it in,” Hyland said.
Hyland said police are around the camp daily, on foot patrols and in vehicles. “We continue to make ourselves open and approachable for all our citizens.”
One nearby resident though said the empty lot next to her apartment building on 119th Avenue, has been busier in the last few months, since tent city began.
“I don’t think it should be there. The camp is not good,” said Jasmine Ledward. If the community wants to help the homeless, it should find a solution or location that won’t affect everybody else.
“Were stuck here. I live in a cheap apartment. I’m a single mom. I can’t move but I don’t want my son witnessing all this.”
She has a close up view of the shaded area on the empty lot on 223rd Street where people regularly stop.
“There will be people yelling, screaming when they’re walking by. Recently, a woman approached the patio while Ledward’s three-year-old son was outside playing.
“New people now are coming from the SkyTrain (from Coquitlam) and tent city is getting bigger. There are whole bunch of new faces.”
She also just saw a woman pulling her pants down in the middle of the intersection. “My son can’t go to a park without me checking it out, scoping for needles.”
The empty lot though has long been a location for people to sit or consume drugs.
But, “Since the camp opened, it’s gotten a lot worse,” Ledward said.
Ivan Drury, organizer of the tent city, said Ledward’s complaints are vague and don’t indicate any crime or actual disruption and questioned the statement that people are using transit to get here.
He said the number of calls police receive don’t necessarily indicate social disorder or disruptions of everyday life.
“I’m not sure that it has anything to do with the actual existence of low-income people in a community. I think it has to do with the existence of an ideology in a community that sees those people as an unwelcome presence.”
Drury said the population at the tent city has remained stable for last month or so at between 40 and 50 people. “There hasn’t been a draw of people from other cities.”