Vancouver – Drugs, Gangs and Olympic Games?

Recent Mercer Quality of Living global city rankings showed Vancouver as the greatest city in America. Nevertheless, it has been receiving a lot of completely different attention in the last months. Why?

For the first three months of 2009 alone, Vancouver (2.7 mil inhabitants) has witnessed 45 shootings, 17 of them fatal. Converted per 1 mil citizens, that means 6.3 of them died violently. Compared to Toronto (5.1 mil citizens), there was 11 murders in the same period, which works out at 2.2 violent deaths per 1 mil citizens – almost three times less!

Gangs, other gangs, police and citizens

10 years ago, there were only 10 times less active gangs in Vancouver than these days. Speaking in specific figures, it is over 100 gangs active in Vancouver these days! Moreover, there are three main circumstances that are not helping the situation at all: 1) the gangs’ organization is mostly quite bad, 2) they can acquire weapons without any remarkable effort, and 3) the member base of the gangs is formed of very young draftees.

Today, we can notice a parallel fight in Vancouver and its streets. One of them being naturally between the gangs themselves. The gangs are at each other’s throats since the price of cocaine from Mexico has increased. In the recent past, the cocaine price has shot from $23,300/kg up to almost $39,000/kg, this being caused by the project against drug cartels led by the Mexican administration.

Now you might be asking why the connection between Vancouver and drugs is so strong. In order to reply to this inquiry, we have to remember several facts: the city administration has traditionally very relaxed policies, Vancouver is in a perfect region for drug business, and it has large surroundings where only few people live. So the drug-related business and crime has very good climate here. We could hardly find another Canadian city with such perfect configuration of these characteristics.

And yet the city of Vancouver has fewer policemen per head of population than any other great Canadian city. Moreover, the regional politicians are suggesting to lower the annual police and court budget by $20 million by 2012. If the metropolitan police had more financial and personal resources in hand, their situation in the war against the gangs would be much better.

Conclusion…?

As professional Vancouver realtor I want to present calm and safe neighborhoods of my town. I am far from pretending that this problem we are facing can be solved by some quick & easy peace recipes. However, it seems apparent to me that the police would need to increase its staff count and budget, not lower it! The city has to be safe and secure again. One, but not the only reason being the Olympic games soon, but mostly because the citizens of Vancouver deserve it. The beginning of the gang problem solution might be a new stern law proposed by the PM Stephen Harper. According to this act, the gang murders would be judged as first-degree and punished with the minimum of 25 years. But we will have to do much more to regenerate Vancouver’s good reputation from the past.