By Gagandeep Ghuman
Vast majority of property crime in West Vancouver is committed by those who don’t live in the district, and is overwhelmingly driven by those who commit these crimes to support a drug habit, says Len Goerke, chief constable for West Vancouver police.
West Vancouver property crime rate has shown a general increase, although that is a trend noticed in other Lower Mainland communities as well, Goerke says. What makes West Vancouver unique is the fact that criminals travel to West Vancouver neighbourhoods to commit thefts as it’s seen as an affluent place for such crimes.
“The short answer to why property crime has gone up here is addiction. We have a reputation that this is a good place to come and steal things and that is because it has affluent pieces to it. For someone looking to support a habit, it’s likely more profitable to break into a car in West Van than in some other areas,” he says.
“The short answer to why property crime has gone up here is addiction. We have a reputation that this is a good place to come and steal things and that is because it has affluent pieces to it. For someone looking to support a habit, it’s likely more profitable to break into a car in West Van than in some other areas.”
Goerke warns, however, that a minor change in numbers can also skew impressions about the scale of the problem. A change of 50 to 100 files can make a big percentage difference in a small community like West Vancouver, but would have a negligible effect in bigger municipalities.
“If someone comes here and does two or three thefts from autos a day, or a burglary, and they do that for 2-4 weeks before they are caught, that makes a huge difference on percentage number. In a bigger jurisdiction, like Vancouver or Surrey, you wouldn’t even notice it,” he says.
West Vancouver is also unique when it comes to violent crime. The violence that occurs here is largely domestic violence. Violent crime is down, and Goerke says what has helped is setting up a domestic violence unit in 2016 which reduced repeat relationship violence. An initiative of Goerke, the domestic violence unit aims to reduce domestic violence crime by connecting the victim as well as the perpetrator with social services, counselling, etc.
The police has partnered with social service agencies such as Hollyburne Society as well as the Squamish Nation to provide services such as counselling so that repeated incidents don’t happen.
Earlier, a domestic violence incident would lead to a brief arrest before the person accused of committing the assault would be back home on bail. Now the police has partnered with social service agencies such as Hollyburne Society as well as the Squamish Nation to provide services such as counselling so that repeated incidents don’t happen.
“Our domestic violence unit brings together the police and social worker, and they try to look at the situation much more completely. It has contributed to better and more sustainable outcomes, and there is less repeat offending in relationship situations,” he says.
If the stats are any indication, it looks like West Vancouver police have managed to reduce traffic collisions, which Goerke credits to focused and data-driven enforcement on problem areas in the district.
One of the biggest achievements considering the 24/7 nature of policing work was to successfully relocate to the new building. West Vancouver police had been working out of the Marine Drive building since 1956, and even deciding which documents to keep and which ones to discard and figuring out IT services while providing round-the-clock policing work was a considerable challenge.
This year, Goerke is closely watching the challenges marijuana legalisation may bring to policing. “We are good now, but if the legalisation has a big impact, then clearly we will be going to council and saying we need more police resources because of the things that come out of cannabis legalisation,” he says.