Sunset theft rates spike, highest in South Vancouver

Rate of "other theft" in the Sunset neighbourhood has spiked in the last year, the reason why is unclear

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By Joyce Liew

There is little agreement on the cause of a surging theft rate in the Sunset neighbourhood of South Vancouver.

Vancouver Police Department crime data shows that overall, since 2020, vehicle and bicycles thefts have remained roughly the same in Sunset. However, “other theft” has more than tripled.

VPD data shows that Sunset’s “other theft” rate has risen sharply and surpassed the average rate of theft of all Vancouver neighbourhoods since January 2022. Forty per cent of “others thefts” in South Vancouver occur in Sunset, located between Main St. and Knight St., south of 41st Ave.

The VPD categorizes its theft data into the following groups: vehicle theft, bicycle theft, theft from vehicles, and “other theft,” which includes mail and personal property.

A graph of “other theft” trends in South Vancouver neighbourhoods
A graph of “other theft” in Sunset v.s. Vancouver average

Experts weigh in

Mauro Francis, executive director of the South Vancouver Community Policing Centre, said that “A lot has happened in the past two years, in the last year specifically.”

Francis said the cause of the rate of theft increase is multifaceted. He said it could be caused by an increase of theft-reports because the policing centre is providing extra assistance to the residents in reporting crime. He also said disbanded encampments from the Downtown Eastside could be displacing people who are then moving into Sunset.

“A lot of people struggling with mental health and addiction issues are then spread out across the city,” said Francis.

Darrell Kean, a criminology instructor at Langara College who previously worked at the Vancouver Police Department,said, “Sunset isn’t East Hastings.”

He said that a growing population in Sunset is not contributing to such an abnormal, sudden spike of thefts from December 2021 to January 2022.

“It’s more likely that there is some type of theft that is going on where people can do a lot all at once,” said Kean.

He said that it is common to see more thefts occurring in the milder weather months. That, however, does not explain the abrupt increase in the winter months in Sunset.

Francis said that the policing centre is not involved in any investigation and has not increased patrols in Sunset.

“Why is this happening? That would be more of a Vancouver Police question,” said Francis.

Midnight marauders

Connie Hammermeister and her family, who have lived in Sunset for the past 24 years, have noticed this hike in theft, and experienced it. In June, her son’s car was broken into by thieves overnight in front of her home. They rifled through his car, stole his insurance papers and his AirPods.

“Our experience [with crime] has happened over the years,” said Hammermeister, who had her own car broken into three years ago. “But we’ve definitely seen an increase in the last year.”

“I would say confidently that the break-ins and entries into the vehicles, and all the theft has to do with drugs,” said Hammermeister.

Jeffery Yeung, another Sunset resident, captured video footage of a thief checking his mailbox at 2 a.m. last month. In his neighbour’s camera, the thief was accompanied by two other people, checking other houses on his street.

“In one of his hands, he was holding letter packages, probably from another house,” Yeung said.

 

Yeung believes the rising rate of theft has to do with the growing disparity in wealth. “It’s getting harder and harder for low-income families to survive these days, and people start getting desperate so they resort to petty theft,” Yeung said.

Hammermeister and Yeung reported their experiences with criminal activity in Sunset to the police but said they haven’t seen any increase in police activity in their neighbourhood.

The Voice reached out to the VPD about Sunset’s theft rate but did not get a response back.

“[The police] don’t really do much, unfortunately, because they’re so busy handling other stuff,” said Hammermeister.

VIDEO: Reporter Joyce Liew talks to residents in the Sunset Neighbourhood of South Vancouver about the sharp rise in the rate of theft in their area.

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