Frances Bula header image 2

Peter Ladner: Strong on crime-fighting or not?

October 19th, 2008 · 6 Comments

When Peter Ladner and the Non-Partisan Association launched the party platform last week, they also kicked off a round of commentary about Ladner’s supposed new emphasis on dealing with crime and boosting police and other security measures.

Some saw it as a surprise. I didn’t. I said in a story I wrote in the first week of September that the party was likely going to emphasize crime in its campaign. You could tell from the reports coming back on his Walk the Talk campaign during the summer, where he consistently focused on people’s concerns about crime in his walkabouts.

Not to mention that it’s a standard NPA issue. Vancouver has some pretty terrible social problems and the parties always have a divide in how they talk about them. The NPA tends to frame those problems as a concern about crime and disorder. The left, whichever party it is, tends to frame them as a concern about homelessness and mental illness.

But maybe it came as a surprise because Ladner had said in the first mayoral debate on Oct. 1 that his first priority was homelessness. Hmm.

But moving on to the actual issue of crime-fighting, Vision Vancouver and other unaffiliated critics noted that Ladner has been pretty consistent in not supporting requests for more police officers in his time on council. In fact, he led the charge in casting doubt on whether more officers were really needed and talking about the need for the department to work more efficiently.

The highlight of his history on this was when he mentioned at one council meeting that he had talked to “a police officer” who said police were having to spend way too much of their time writing stupid reports after every crime — a typical move from Ladner, who has that journalistic instinct to go with anecdotal information over boring old reports and statistics. You could just see the deputy chiefs at the back, imagining the malcontent Ladner had talked to who was enamoured of the good old days when cops walked the beat and didn’t have to do any of that writin’ stuff. Too bad the courts and all those uptight nitpickers want full reports on everything these days.

In spite of that history, if you go back and look at the record from long ago, what you’ll notice is that Peter Ladner was on much more of a law-and-order schtick right from the beginning even if he didn’t particularly support hiring more officers.

It seems to emanate from a very personal distaste for disorderliness in the city, partly fuelled by his connections in the business community, because it comes up so frequently, both in his conversations and these long-ago motions from his first year on council.

January 2003: Asks staff to look into an anti-fighting bylaw. (This is eventually brought forward and passed some time later, although the jury is out on whether it has had any impact.)

September 2003: Asks that a provincial caucus meting be convened to address the overwhelming crime problems.

MOVED by Councillor Ladner
SECONDED by Councillor Sullivan

WHEREAS, public concerns and frustration about panhandling, break-and-enter, shoplifting and public drug dealing are at record levels;

AND WHEREAS, degradation of the public realm is seriously affecting the ability of individuals, organizations and businesses in the City of Vancouver to go about their lives without being harassed, threatened or robbed;

AND WHEREAS, a recent survey found that the incidence of shoplifting and vandalism in Vancouver is more than twice the rates in Burnaby, Richmond or Surrey;

AND WHEREAS, 27 per cent of Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association members listed crime as their biggest problem this year, up from 22 per cent last year;

AND WHEREAS, Tourism Vancouver has repeatedly expressed its concern that aggressive panhandling is endangering the city’s reputation as a safe city for tourists;

AND WHEREAS, the City of Vancouver has a responsibility to its citizens and its visitors to guarantee safety and order in the community;

AND WHEREAS, the City of Vancouver has a responsibility to victims of poverty, homelessness and drug use to facilitate access to resources and services to help them;

AND WHEREAS, the means to solve most of these problems are beyond the control of the City of Vancouver;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Mayor of Vancouver convene a “Vancouver Caucus” of elected members from Vancouver City Council, Vancouver School Board, Vancouver Park Board, and the provincial and federal governments to agree on actions that can be taken to deal with
· aggressive panhandling,
· shoplifting, break-and-enter and theft from automobiles,
· property crime,
· illegal drug abuse, and
· homelessness
specifically as these problems affect the citizens of Vancouver

And then again in October 2003:

B. Motions on Notice

1. Mayor’s Forum (File 1251)

MOVED by Councillor Ladner
SECONDED by Councillor Sullivan

WHEREAS, aggressive panhandling, open drug markets, squatting on public land, theft from auto, shoplifting and break-and-enter are perceived by many citizens, tourists and businesses as a growing problem in Vancouver;

AND WHEREAS, Vancouver’s social and economic health depends on its overall liveability, until now the top-ranked in the world;

AND WHEREAS, Vancouver City Council has demonstrated its concern for the homeless, victims of drug addiction and the safety of sex trade workers, including leadership on opening a safe injection site, investments in low-income housing, and a commitment by the Mayor for community forums on the safety of sex trade workers;

AND WHEREAS, average taxpaying citizens and businesses are feeling that their concerns about the safety and liveability of their neighbourhoods are not being heard;

AND WHEREAS, action to help victims of drug abuse, poverty, violence against sex trade workers and welfare changes has to be balanced with actions to maintain the safety of neighbourhoods and the economic viability of the city;

AND WHEREAS, at its meeting of September 16, 2003, City Council requested that these and other issues be taken to the Vancouver Caucus for discussion;

AND WHEREAS, this Council believes strongly in citizen input and should have it prior to the discussion at the Vancouver Caucus;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT City Council convene a Mayor’s forum to receive input from citizens, neighbourhood groups and businesses regarding the impacts of aggressive panhandling, open drug markets, squatting on public land, theft from auto, shoplifting and break-and-enter, along with suggestions for actions the City can take to improve neighbourhood safety and liveability.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Wagamuffin

    Oh, boy, I feel a long one coming on…

    Frances, I am a little surprised at what appears to be your oversimplification of a very important issue to many Vancouverites.

    Thankfully, most of us are not homeless–and we most certainly want to see our elected officials at all levels of governement deal with the problem of those who are.

    But since when could concern with crime be considered political “shtick” in this town? Or that it should take a backseat to other issues?

    I defy you to find me one person in Vancouver who has not been personally affected by or know someone who has been affected by crime.

    In my mother’s neighborhood , it’s older women who have been victims of purse snatchings. For many others, it’s coming home (or coming to work) to find that b&e’s, vandalism, car break-ins and the like have occurred. For teens on their way to school or after school jobs, many have been bullied or shaken down by groups of kids who thinks it’s just OK to take their stuff. For me, I have stepped into the middle of drunken brawls in downtown residential areas DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY to try to stop idiots from pounding each other. (Yes, I know, it’s a numbers game. Sooner or later I am going to run out of luck in that department).

    Are you implying that helping ease the homeless situation is going to end crime? Are you implying that the homeless in this town are responsible for all the crime? Do you think that issues in this campaign work in isolation to each other?

    As someone who has known and worked with active or retired police officers, I have heard from many of them that report writing for petty crime takes up an extraordinary amount of their time. And they see the same 200 or so people who do it go round and round the judicial merry-go-round time and time again. (Here’s hoping Community Court will make a dent on the recidivists).

    Solution: perhaps that level of report writing could be re-deployed to another able but less costly admin sector—somehow leaving more cops to do the messy work most of us wouldn’t dare to do. Isn’t that a better use of resources? As it is, I hear that cops almost never attend b&e’s anymore—there are too many and they are needed for more serious missions. All of which leaves the citizenry frustrated with the lack of service yet wondering how many cops it would actually take to control the situation in town.

    And maybe while I’m thinking about this, I could challenge “average” Vancouverites to come up with some solutions to these problems too. It is our collective problem, folks, not just the cops or City Hall staff or elected officials.

    We have been sleepwalking in this town on both the issues of homelessness and crime for too long. A rather laissez-faire attitude (let the cops handle it; let the pols handle it) combined with a gradual yet higher tolerence for bad behaviours in our day-to-day lives has led us to the mess we find ourselves in today.

    Now we look for someone to shriek at over all the problems.

    I suggest we look in the mirror.

  • Rolf Auer

    I remember that when Allan De Genova was putting in his bid for leader of Vision, and, therefore, as Vision’s mayoral candidate, that the thing he said was uppermost on his mind was increasing the number of police. Well, of the three Vision candidates, he finished third. Is this about to happen to Ladner too, in a similar fashion?

  • Peter “Big Brother” Ladner, he and Gregor are showing themselves to be a mixture of 1984 and Animal Farmers in the sense of wanting to extend big brother and refuse anyone but them debating and making sure them the two pigs are more equal than others.


    Gölök Zoltán Buday
    “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” — Thomas Paine

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Hi Frances:

    There are two significant issues which spring to mind here:

    Firstly, Peter has been unable to capitalize on his win over Sam, which was very significant. Why? Precisely for the reason(s) you allude to above. Peter and the NPA could make the homelessness issue their own by showing how it is affecting EVERYONE, not just those on the DTES. Talking about it, isn’t enough. For example, forcing oneself to commit a crime to survive, nets the result of what? An increase in crime. Ergo, the law and order strategy could work, but it needs to be married to the larger issue effectively. And that would certainly be possible if Peter, again, wasn’t pushing for this absurd notion of Sam’s (originally), that private security companies and Downtown Ambassadors (bless them) serve as secondary and tertiary levels of police assistance. If there is a problem with any of these brave souls, a mechanism for review and even complaint is non-existent. With the police, like theire process of self-review or not, there is a process indeed. DeGenova had it right–more cops. Cops to the max, frankly. The ‘Broken Window Approach’ worked in NYC because Mr. Giuliani had the roster of cops skyrocket. Kim Capri and others who pick and choose from this approach, piecemeal, only frustrate the process of getting anything worthy accomplished (vis-a-vis, not having gotten anything positive accomplished to this end). This should be a simple calculus for Peter. I think he’s getting bad advice and not a lot of co-operation.

    Secondly, the NPA is stuck in a strategy funk on this issue. I completely understand their thinking: They do not want Gregor dictating the agenda. So, the emphasis on fighting crime is trotted out, since it’s top of mind with voters. However, the NPA themselves have spent the last three years putting homelessness at first place on the list of civic priorities–and have delivered little by way of results: Civil City is an utter joke and claims of securing social housing ring hollow since they were really initiatives that the Province shamelessly engineered to window dress the Olympics, notwithstanding the city’s lobbying (which should not be considered a special act–this is what civic governments do as a matter of course). There was no humanity attached to this effort.

    If Peter Ladner wants to be Mayor of Vancouver, and it’s entirely possible, then he has to differentiate himself not just from Gregor, but from Sam, in particular, so as to shift the narrative. He does not need to be unkind, he needn’t mention Sam. Just act entirely differently–it’s certainly possible! Otherwise, Gregor can say almost whatever he wants to and the “new”, “fresh” change, will become the electorate’s default selection.

  • Vote for Pedro? Nope

    Alex hits it on the head. Peter seems absolutely unwilling to distance himself from Sam – he seems to think that all of the upset NPA voters were upset with Sam, and that they’ll come running back to him. But dig a bit deeper and you see that the centre-right vote in Vancouver has every right to be disenchanted with Peter’s time on council: the huge homeowner tax hikes, the wacky million-dollar projects we don’t need and can’t afford (3-1-1), and of course, Peter’s complicity in the incoherent, disorganized policy process of the NPA’s three years: lurching from Orwellian projects to end homelessness and rid the city of panhandlers, all by way of bylaw enforcement, to the magical proposals to make housing affordable for everyone through EcoDensity.

    Wagamuffin’s outrage at Peter’s concern over crime being seen as a schtick overlooks the fact that just 2 weeks ago Peter declared for all to hear that homelessness was his top priority and top concern as mayor (aside from his vacation). It’s kind of hard to take his concern for crime seriously when he’s made a 180 on his top priority in 14 days.

    This is starting to turn into another “only the NPA will protect your family” campaign, like we saw in 2005. Remember the crime commissioner? the crystal meth task force? The NPA ran a campaign of fear and it worked. The only difference is that it’s way more effective to tell everyone you can protect them from the evil streets when you haven’t been in council for the past three years.

  • Wagamuffin

    Alex, yes, Rudy had more cops on the streets of Manhattan–and there were also tons of private security guards out as well. That was in 2000. It was the first time I had seen civil servants (cops) and corporate guards work together. That’s how they managed to keep the peace, because to go all cops would have been unaffordable. And even then, I witnessed a purse snatching at 5th Avenue and 54th at 5pm in the summer with the streets full of people!

    I understand what you’re saying about the NPA taking homelessness and making it an issue not just on the DTES. I think that is part of the problem for Vision though, quite frankly. While everyone is pissed by what they know happens down there, a question arises: OK, you build the accomodation in that area, hopefully there’s money for in-house care, treatment, mental health, maybe Riverview opens too. But what happens when you have new homeless landing in town? Build MORE housing? It really hasn’t addressed the situation in tota at all—neither the systemic problems OR addressed how to keep people OUT of the system in the first place. It’s only only created a band-aid solution.

    Vote For Pedro….I don’t think talking about crime is playing to everyone’s fears. They’re fearful already. As I said before—it’s not the homeless performing all the crimes in this town. We have a professional class of sociopathic criminals, including home invaders (which happens way more than the public knows–including last night’s incident and one next door where I lived at Cambie and 33rd—that was nice, having a young brother and sister come to my home at midnight after escaping being tied up, and pistol whipped) operating in this town. Please don’t get me started on those guys and the drug dealers…but, THANK YOU Canadian justice system…

    Speaking about “big ticket” items I hear that Gregor has not exactly buried the concept of “Civil City”, saying today he could revamp it.

    And as for ‘declarations and taxes’, I was surprised to hear Gregor promise another possible tax hike for homeowners in order to pay for whatever it is he thinks he is actually going to do. The details of which still remain a mystery, as of today…