By Cassidy Olivier, The Province
Vancouver is slowly becoming a safer city to live in with crime rates dropping steadily since the peak crime years of the mid-90s, according to the Vancouver Police Department's (VPD) 2007 annual report on crime.
Released today, the report shows significant decreases in violent crime numbers between 2006 and 2007 with the total number of violent offences reported to police dropping approximately 6 per cent from 7,971 to 7,498.
Similarly, the report shows property crime levels have dropped by roughly 11 per cent from 49,736 in 2006 to 44,310 in 2007. The only increase related to property crime was fraud, with the number of reported fraud incidents rising from 2,160 in 2006 to 2,362 in 2007.
Acting Chief Doug LePard said, overall, the department is "reasonably happy" with this year's numbers and attributed the drops to increased policing and a focus on problem areas such as chronic offenders and mental illness.
But he also noted that gang-related crime continues to be a thorn in the side of the department and said the increase in murders between 2006 and 2007 can be partially attributed to the spike in gang-related violence in the city.
Last year, there were 19 culpable homicides in Vancouver compared to 15 in 2006. There were also more attempted murders, 17, and abductions, 10. These numbers were 8 and 13 in 2006.
"Generally, if you look at the overall trends...the trends for murders are down," LePard said, noting the department has seen a change in the "complexion" of murders in the past year.
He said the department will continue to pursue initiatives - like the Bar Watch and Restaurant Watch programs - and maintain alliances with other anti-gang agencies in an effort to stomp out organized crime.
Meanwhile, the report also found the department spent more money on staffing in 2007 than the year prior, although overall operating costs were down 5 per cent.
LePard said staffing costs are likely to increase as the department looks to add 96 officers to its roster in the coming year.
The report can be read online at www.vpd.ca.