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How not to make sense of a VPD crime alert

July 10, 2014


The Vancouver Police have been warning buildings across the west side of Vancouver that thieves are trying to sneak into gated parking areas and steal things.

A flyer headlined as a “VPD Crime Alert” from the Vancouver Police Department was recently taped to the back door of a Fairview apartment building on 11th Avenue.

The alert warned about an “unusual” increase in gated parkade break-ins in the area.

A good excuse to beat the drum for crime prevention?


Flyer location (in red) in the alert area, with last seven days of car break-ins overlayed.

The area covered by the alert was huge: the western boundary was Alma Street and it ran as far east as Ontario Street. It covered a north-south area from 16th Avenue to the southern edge of False Creek/Burrard Inlet.

Undated and citing no actual statistics whatsoever, the alert read like a reminder to Kitsilano and Fairview residents that thieves will try to break in to parkades and cars if they can.

The flyer had a check list about parkade security including:

  • Make sure the parkade gate has closed securely behind you before driving away.
  • Remove all personal items, valuables and electronics from your unattended vehicle.
  • Lock your bike up to a fixed object using a good lock.

And so on.

Preaching to the converted?


There’s nothing wrong with reminding area residents about the vital role they need to play in crime prevention but Fairview’s residents, at least, are demonstrably sensitive about parkade security — the buildings with gated parkades see to that. Many feature large signage repeating the same warnings about waiting until the gate is closed and not leaving valuables in vehicles.

Every day that I ride through the neighbourhood’s back alleys to collect bottles I end up waiting for residents in cars exiting their underground parkades who are, in turn, waiting for their parkade gate to close fully. Both they and I take this security delay as a necessary cost of living in the neighbourhood.

I guess there are would-be thieves always trying try to sneak into parkades all over the city. I’ve never seen anyone try this in Fairview but I know it happens. I have heard that a large commercial parkade in the area recently suffered a spate of car break-ins for the first time in a long time.

If there had been a significant increase in parkade break-ins in Fairview I would have expected to see stepped up police patrols through the alleys but we haven’t had anything like that since a rash of break-and-enters last year.

More proof the the DTES is a kind suburb of Fairview

Theft from cars, June 25 to July 1. -- VPD

Vancouver Police Department crime map: theft from cars, June 25 to July 1.

The Vancouver Police Department’s Theft from Auto crime map for June 25 to July 1, 2014 shows two main hotspots, neither of which appears to be centred in residential areas.

The legend on the crime map says large triangles represent 6 locations with 2 incidents each and little triangles mean 118 locations had 1 incident each.

This could mean there were over 1000 incidents of thefts from area cars in a seven day period across Kitsilano and Fairview, but I’m probably reading the map wrong.

The VPD’s most recent tabular data for neighbourhood crime — April, 2014 — lists only 189 cases of theft over $5000 across Kitsilano and Fairview.

So I’m surely over-counting the crime map but I’m counting it it all the same way. Kitsilano and Fairview have just a fifth of the thefts compared to the smaller area of the downtown peninsula and about 300 less than the even smaller East Vancouver neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant.

The western hotspot in Fairview centres on Burrard Street at West Broadway Avenue, which is commercial and extends east, again largely through commercial area, to South Granville — also commercial. The eastern hotspot appears to be centred within the grounds of the Vancouver General Hospital.

So I don’t think the map shows an unusual increase in vehicle break-ins centred around apartment and condo parkades.

What the 2014 crime map does show me, more than anything else, is the amazing amount of theft from vehicles in the downtown core. Everyone going there should definitely take the bus.

TransLink could even advertise the downtown car break-in rates to help increase transit ridership:

“Take the bus downtown. All you’ll lose is time”.

Theft from cars under $5000 (2011). Dark brown is 8 or more thefts. -- vanmapp

Theft from cars under $5000 (2011). Dark brown is 8 or more thefts. — vanmapp

The other thing that occurs to me, once again, is that the rates of property crime in Fairview and Kitsilano have a lot to do with relative proximity to the Downtown Eastside. In fact, generally speaking, the farther a neighborhood is from the DTES the less crime it seems to have.

Crime in Vancouver is so confusing

It wasn’t until after I had gone through most of this silly rigamarole with maps and crime stats that I tried to find the online version of the VPD Crime Alert flyer — the one that would have given a date. I was unsuccessful.

Meaning I have no idea how new or old it is. So it’s just as well that it’s central message of not taking security for granted is so…timeless.

It’s interesting that the Vancouver Police Department’s most recent crime alert is for March, its most recent tabular neighbourhood crime numbers are for April and the most recent crime map is for the week ending July 1.

But they do provide neighbourhood crime statistics going back to 2002. Click the images above to enlarge them.


Theft under $5,000 in Fairview, 2002-2003. — VPD stats/LibreOffice chart



From → Fairview, Kitsilano

  1. Slowcrow permalink

    Yes, but those stats refer to REPORTED crimes. How many folks do not report to anybody, thereby avoiding frustrations plus higher deductibles. And then there is that famous quote that reminds us how malable (?) statistics can be, can fit to the desired outcome.

    • Quite so. Interpreting statistics is a mug’s game because they are all groomed for some kind of effect. By the time you or I get to see them they are PR. Even if the VPD was inclined to release raw numbers (whatever that might mean) the head of the Police Board, the Mayor of Vancouver, wouldn’t allow it.

      Even if Gregor did and the VPD released raw data, I probably still wouldn’t understand it.

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