In recent months there have been growing concerns about public safety in downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods. Residents and businesses alike are asking – what can be done and what are we doing to ensure the city is safe and inclusive for all residents?
We’re writing this letter to tell you – we hear you, we share your concerns, and we are taking steps to address them. This means:
- Supporting and appropriately funding our police force so they can respond to emergencies as well as proactively address vandalism, crime and safety issues;
- Increasing police presence and patrols in affected neighbourhoods;
- Continuing to advocate strongly for Provincial support of:
- More wraparound services for people in need, including mental health and addiction treatment and recovery options
- A complex care housing system that provides services for people who are falling through the cracks in the current supportive housing model
- On site supportive services in dedicated social housing projects
- Ensuring police officers are trained in de-escalation, trauma informed response, conflict resolution and anti-racism;
- Supporting de-escalation information and resources.
During last year’s budget debate, we opposed deep cuts to the police budget, and fought to support the Vancouver Police Board endorsed budget, which would have made some of these actions possible.
Police and fire are critical services – services that have changed with the times and need to continue to evolve to effectively serve our communities.
The Province has recognized this, and is currently undertaking an important review of the Police Act. Recommendations from the review are expected next Spring. We can expect those recommendations to consider a more health-centered response to mental health and addiction crises. And we need to be open to exploring new approaches to an opioid crisis that takes more lives daily and annually than the Covid-19 pandemic has.
Meanwhile the fact remains that we do not have an alternative framework for effectively or safely responding to the myriad of issues that are playing out on our streets. We need to concurrently support and fund our police force so they can serve our collective interest in a city where everyone feels safe to live and work.
Like many organizations, police forces need to look inwards and address systemic racism and biases. Knee jerk moves to defund the police are not the answer. Thoughtful and planned systems change is the only way to address public safety, and to adapt services to respond to the mental health and addiction related crises playing out on our streets and in our neighbourhoods.
Through the UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) Conference this week, we are actively meeting with Provincial Ministers including the Ministers of Public Safety, Housing, and Mental Health. These issues are top priorities for our discussions, and will continue to be our focus to bring solutions forward working with the different levels of government to address these critical and complex challenges.
We encourage the Mayor and Council to come together and have a real discussion about the critical issue of public safety in the city. While the Province continues its cross-ministry work on issues related to mental health, addictions, and complex care housing, we cannot simply sit and wait. Our mandate as local government is to work effectively with police and ensure public safety.
- The City of Vancouver declared a local state of emergency on March 19, 2020 in response to the global COVID19 pandemic;
- The Province has recommended physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) to prevent the spread of COVID19;
- The Province has also recommended the public continue to safely enjoy the outdoors, including local parks and public spaces;
- The Provincial health officer has commented publicly in recent weeks that partial street closures and one way travel/routing can be an effective way to enable physical exercise and safe distancing during the pandemic;
- Cities across Canada and around the world are undertaking measures to reallocate street space and roadways for pedestrians to safely exercise, access businesses and employment, while maintaining a safe distance due to the current pandemic;
- Vancouver City Council has previously endorsed motions to support slower residential streets and encourage safer shared use;
- The City of Vancouver and Park Board recently identified congestion in and around Stanley Park, and subsequently closed the Stanley Park roadway to cars and one lane along Beach Avenue to enable safe physical distancing during the COVID19 pandemic;
- The City of Vancouver has initiated a street reallocation initiative that focuses on Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move during the COVID19 pandemic;
- The ongoing pandemic necessitates that the City reallocate road space on an urgent basis now and develop plans for mobility and space use as part of our post-COVID-19 recovery and new economy.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to expedite efforts to identify and implement appropriate reallocations of road space, such as high use greenways and streets adjacent to parks where space could be reallocated temporarily to enable safe shared use (pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicles) and support safe physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic response, and
FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to communicate information to the public and businesses regarding the suite of street measures available to the City for reallocating space to support access to local businesses, to support loading and curbside pick-up, and to support physical activity and distancing in neighbourhoods across the city, and
FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to report back to Council in fall 2020 on refined options for mobility and public realm use us as part of the post COVID19 recovery and new economy.
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