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I'm not trying to discourage anyone from visiting or moving here with the information in this section. Vancouver is a large city and incidents have to be put into perspective. Visitors should be aware that incidents can and do occur. I generally feel a lot safer here than I do in most other cities I have visited, and most visitors have nothing to worry about if they use common sense. Many boosters of Vancouver like to sanitize any problems, but I feel it is my duty to show the ugly side of this city as well as the good.
Vancouver, like most Canadian cities, is quite safe to walk around even at night. Vancouver does have the highest crime rate in Canada. This is largely due to the fact that it is an entry point for narcotics, due to its large port. The city is also a magnet to the down and out types from across Canada, due to our mild winters. Muggings are generally rare, but property crime is not. In fact Vancouver is right behind Miami as the North American city with the highest property crime rate. The difference is, that there is almost never any violence associated with it. Most of it is minor car & hose break-in's & theft. If you are American, you may be happy to know that more people are murdered in one day in Washington or Detroit than in an entire year in Vancouver. By the way, handguns are prohibited, make sure you deposit them at the border (there is a place in Blaine, Wash. to do this) or they will be confiscated. Any firearms, including hunting rifles have to be declared at the border. The right to bear arms is NOT part of the Canadian Constitution, as it is in the U.S., and most of us like it that way.
Areas to avoid at night are the East End, centered in a 10 block area around Hastings and Main (excepting Chinatown), and the upper end of Granville Street from the Bridge to Nelson. Most other areas of the city are perfectly safe, even late at night. I would not wander around the wooded areas of Stanley Park after dark. A gay man was beaten to death in the Park in mid-November 2001. Wandering through any Park after dark is not recommended in any city, Vancouver included.
Car Safety & Theft :
Be very careful of your own, or any rented car (make sure you are covered for break-in or theft on a rented car). Car break-ins are very common in Vancouver. In fact it's an outright epidemic. Nothing will ruin your vacation faster, than having your car broken into & all your stuff stolen, especially if you have to deal with replacing a broken window as well. Both my wife, & I have had our cars broken into at one time or another. The courts seem powerless to curb this, the same individuals appear again & again. Considerable progress is being made with the introduction of a "bait-car" program, but I can't emphasize enough that you need to take some simple precautions. If you have an alarm or club, use it, most break-ins are crimes of opportunity. Do not leave your vehicle unlocked. Statistically, cars with alarms or other deterrents, are avoided in favour of easier pickings. Avoid parking your car in underground or any other non attended parking garage, especially at night. Parking your car in exposed spots visible to passing traffic will almost ensure you will not be broken into. Also avoid parking your car in the areas of Vancouver, east of about Abbott Street, between the waterfront and Terminal Ave. This is an area of high drug addict concentration, and car and house break-ins are their main source of income. If you do have to park your car in these areas, remove all valuables. Do not leave anything visible inside your car, even loose change. If the radio has a removal faceplate take it with you. If its an older vehicle and you can secure the vehicle itself from being stolen, sometimes you can simply remove everything & leave it unlocked. I do this with an old "junker" I use for commuting. I don't even leave the registration in there. Theft of the actual vehicle is less common, but still occurs at an alarming rate. This is, however, more likely in the suburbs, most break-ins downtown are by individuals looking for cash or saleable items. Another area to avoid is the area around Granville for about 5 or 6 blocks north of the Granville Street Bridge. Another high risk area is North Surrey around the King George Skytrain Station. There have recently been a few car hijacking incidents for the first time in Vancouver's history. These have been attributed to the same individuals, but these things tend to generate copy cats.
1) Park in visible areas with passing traffic if possible.
2) Use an alarm or steering wheel club.
3) Leave no visible valuables in the car & remove radio faceplate if possible.
4) Lock the vehicle & make sure windows are closed.
5) Avoid parking in the downtown eastside (why you would want to be there is beyond me, anyway)
6) If using a park & ride, Scott Road Station has patrols.
This is a relatively new phenomenon. The perpetrators usually target elderly people living alone in single family dwellings. The police currently have this problem at the top of their priority list.
Over the last few years, a few Skytrain Stations, especially New Westminster, Metrotown & Broadway have become havens for drug dealers. Its best to avoid these stations after dark. King George & Surrey Place Stations in Surrey are also other ones watch after dark.
These individuals use the system as a highway, and the fact that it is driverless and on an honour system, makes their endeavours much easier. There is a Skytrain Police force, but they have no power other than to kick people out of stations. This situation has resulted in an unacceptable situation, and although the system is generally safe, the crime rate along the Skytrain route ( neighbourhood break-ins, muggings, etc) is higher than the city average. Consideration is being made to give the Skytrain Police the same powers as any other Police force. In the interim, the presence of regular police forces in the main trouble spots, is being beefed up.
Serial Killers, Rapists & other Low Lifes:
Vancouver, like any other large North American city has had its share of these. Currently someone is targeting Asian Students. A 21 year old exchange student from China was murdered in October 2002 and there have been several attacks on others. In the 1970's child killer, Clifford Olsen murdered several children, both male & female before he was caught. Currently, the largest criminal investigation in Canadian history is taking place on a pig farm in a Vancouver suburb where presumed ground up remains (if you've seen the movie, Fargo, you get the picture) of several missing prostitutes have been found. The individual who owns the farm is suspected in the murders of about 50 women and may end up as one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Details of this case are still shrouded in secrecy as the investigation continues.
The Russian Mafia is starting to make its presence known in Vancouver. They have been caught recently running scams with private ATM's (designed to get your pin number) & resale of cars that have been written off in the US and then imported, repaired & fitted with low mileage odometers.