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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.

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