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Increase in violent crime in Southeast Vancouver bucks city’s downward trend

Police examine a dead body near Ross and 61st Avenue after what police say was a drive-by shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia on May 2, 2012. The shooting was a block away from Moberly Elementary School.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

Violent crime increased in southeast Vancouver this spring, but declined in the rest of the city, including the Downtown Eastside, according to police.

And the Vancouver Police Department says the added demand on police in the area was responsible for slower response times.

"We're responding to more calls. So more units aren't available because they're tied up on more crime," said Constable Lindsey Houghton, the VPD spokesman. "Those things are tied together very closely."

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From April to June, 355 violent crimes were reported in the city's southeast, according to a police report. That is almost a 14 per cent increase from the previous year, which had slightly more than 300 incidents. Violent crime includes culpable homicide, attempted murder, sex offences, assaults and robbery.

Constable Houghton said police believe the same chronic offender in the area was behind some of the increase, adding that officers do not know who the person is.

The report said officers responded to emergency calls in the district about a minute slower this year than in 2011. Last year, police arrived on scene about nine minutes and 30 seconds after the emergency communications centre received a call. This year, the response time took an average of 65 seconds more.

The troubled district – one of four in the report – covers Mount Pleasant, Kensington-Cedar Cottage, Renfrew-Collingwood, Sunset, Victoria-Fraserview and Killarney.

The district is an anomaly in the quarterly report. It is the only one to experience more violent crime and slower response times. Overall, violent crime decreased by 6.5 per cent. City-wide police response times quickened by more than 40 seconds.

"There [are] some continued downward trends that we have," said VPD Inspector Les Yeo. "Violent crime as well as response times continue to go down."

The quarterly performance report included other notable findings. Traffic injuries jumped by more than 6 per cent, Insp. Yeo said – with Vancouver's high rates of aggressive and distracted driving possibly behind the surge.

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The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, whose data for traffic injuries the VPD report cited, refused to comment on why traffic injuries were up. The ICBC did not see the report before publication, a spokesman said, and did not have time to review the data.

A 25 per cent increase in theft from vehicles helped spike the city's property crime rates by almost 6 per cent, Insp. Yeo said. The VPD is urging drivers and passengers not to leave valuables in parked cars.

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