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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are prepared for high Fraser River levels

Peak numbers are expected to be below trigger levels for both cities

‘Protect our jobs,” say laid-off hotel workers to MLA Lisa Beare

Delegation delivered a petition to Maple Ridge MLA office on Friday

LOOKING BACK: A ride down memory lane or in this case Dewdney Trunk Road

Maple Ridge’s museum director offers a history lessson on how the major thoroughfare came to be

$75K will mean gifts for Maple Ridge man’s kids

Meneo Asperin had a rush of emotion when he thought he’d won $75 on BC/49

New Maple Ridge park to be finished this summer

Park located on the former site of the Anita Place Tent City

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Greater Vancouver home sales start to tick up, with prices holding steady

Residential sales last month reached 2,443, a 64.5 per cent jump from May

Langley Lodge’s deadly outbreak declared over

Fraser Health and long-term care home administrator confirm Friday declaration

PHOTOS: South Surrey tractor project evokes ‘$1-million smile,’ helps connect neighbours

Retired Surrey firefighter Ron Henze began project for friend’s dad to fill time during pandemic

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

Search continues for person seen floating in Coquihalla River in Hope

Rescuers halted the search Thursday night as darkness fell

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Most Read