Crime Stats down in the City

Recently I read in the local papers that current statistics indicate crime is on the decline in New Westminster and across Canada. I sit on the New Westminster Community Police representing the Moody Park Resident Association. I’ve heard first hand from the New Westminster Police Department that crime in New Westmister has gone down and I believe what I’ve heard. But does that change my behaviours? Not really. Are my perceptions different than they were 2 or 3 years ago? Regrettably, no.

I have the advantage and disadvantage of living on 8th Avenue in Moody Park. It’s a nice neighbourhood that is transitioning well into a ‘better’ neighbourhood. The older homes are being purchased and renovated or restored, which wasn’t happening when we first moved into our home 6 years ago. I like to think that as each of us does our little thing to make our properties better, our neighbours are inspired to carry on the new practice, and little by little our neighbourhood improves. Whereas older heritage homes were being neglected and torn down, I see renos going on, new paint and gardens popping up. All these things are good. Perhaps Moody Park may never reach Queens Park stature in my lifetime, but there is a steady positive progression that is reassuring.

However on a recent Sunday morning, four separate police cars sped by the house within a half an hour – sirens blaring, flashing lights and going what had to be 100 km/hr. This happens throughout the day and night, every day. What impression does that make on residents who don’t get the personalized updates about crime stats? By the way, it’s not unusual to see/hear multiple responses to an event – police, fire and ambulance – as each agency jockeys to arrive first, take command and add to their statistics. There are times when my street feels under siege. We nervously joke that people are dropping like flies in the neighbourhood. I’ve lived in several cities across Canada, in larger communities than New West, and I’ve never experienced this at this magnitude.

From a personal perspective, I won’t walk anywhere in New West at night by myself, including my own street. I won’t run an errand on 12th Street after sundown. I won’t walk through Moody Park when there are groups of young men hanging out. Ironically when I attend the Police Committee meetings, which are held at the police station, I won’t park in the parkade after dark, and I won’t park on the side streets around the police station – after dark or otherwise. I simply don’t feel safe. I wonder if anyone will respond if I find myself in a situation. Other than emergency responses, we rarely see a police presence in Moody Park.

A few days ago, a woman strung out on something tried to get into my house in the middle of the day! On the same day, I received a phone call from a resident only a few blocks away, wanting to get some help from the Moody Park Residents Association because she repeatedly witnesses drug deals going down in front of her building. This isn’t the first resident to watch drug deals go down in front of their homes. I have firsthand accounts from at least three residents within 4 blocks of each other on the same street describing their frustrations that the police appear to be nothing about the drug deals. It’s a sad state of affairs when you not only know the cars the dealers drive, but you can also call them by name. And now there’s a new ‘girl’ working 12th Street, just when we thought the street was cleaned up. The stats may indicate crime is decreasing in New Westminster and across the country, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Crime may be going down, but do residents feel safe? I don’t think so. We may have a long way to go before people will instinctively say that we live in a safe city.

– Voice director, Jan Fialkowski

8 thoughts on “Crime Stats down in the City

  1. When crime stats went up a few years ago, the Mayor said we were part of the regional figures. Crime was up everywhere, so New Westminster was just like all the others.
    Now crime is down everywhere, including in New Westminster and the mayor is singing the praises of the NWPD. Outstanding work he says.
    More typical Wright spin.
    Back to the stats, the Mayor said that the one murder didn’t really count, because he said there were indications that the body was moved to New West. Here we have a family grieving, however, but the Mayor said it really didn’t count.
    Class act, that guy.

  2. It is interesting that although crime is down, your perception is that it’s the same or worse! Stories (your firsthand accounts from residents about drug dealing etc.) are more memorable than statistics, and the stories we tell influence people’s perceptions of safety.

    I am of the opinion that when people believe their neighbourhoods to be unsafe, things get worse. When people are afraid, they don’t go out on the streets at night. They talk less to strangers (and neighbours). The change in behaviour leads to fewer eyes on the street and weaker neighbourhood ties. And that (in my opinion) leads to more crime, not less.

    Unfortunately, we humans are just not very good at assessing the relative risk of certain behaviours. We overestimate some (the risk of being assaulted by a stranger when walking at night, for example) and underestimate others (the risk of being injured or killed in a car crash, which is one of the leading causes of non-disease related death).

    Ordinary dangers (car crashes, accidents at home) lack the powerful elements of story that make the extraordinary dangers (stranger attack or child abduction by a stranger) so compelling and scary.

    Instead of focusing on the (now fewer) accounts of prostitution, drug dealing, and other bad behaviours, we ought to encourage people to be neighbourly, to spend time out on the street, to watch out for each other and so on.

  3. I just took my pooch out to do her morning business.6th Street was littered with garbage from 4th Ave where I started, all the way to the mall at 6th and 6th. It depressed me. I also dont feel safe here, and Im tired of the endless chirpy optimism I hear from city hallers, about how fabulous it is here. It is not. It’s a mess. After they clean up the mess, lower the crime, fix the schools and infrastructure, and in general DO THEIR JOBS like the rest of us who pay their wages, they can casider giving themselves a raise. Right now, they are sorely OVERPAID. Just walk around, anyone, and this will be obvious. We need a drastic change of leadership, not the same poor one, for even MORE money.

  4. I agree with Brianna. Being a major crime fighter on 12th Street I see an improvement for the good, with exception of lately when Burnaby pushed the problem out of their community to ours. One of the main problems on this street is the unfounded paranoia of fear mongers who refuse to come out. The reason there is an appearance of drug deals and Prostitution is the lack of others on the street. Three Hookers working the street stand out because they are not balanced out with others Like commercial Drive or 6th Street, which have more crime and vagrancy than 12th. Remove the good people from these streets and they would be like East Hastings
    One of the major contributing factors in creating safety is an active police force. When we see a methed or cracked up individual and she/he is allowed to remain in that state and on the street creates a bad reputation. If you were drunk in a public place, you would be thrown in the slammer until sober. What gives these sick people the right to exist in public in this state. We need a proper police board with crime resolving experience not political appointees that favour our Mayors political agenda. We need a visible Police Chief who is on the job to fight crime as opposed to only attending social functions. God knows we are paying for dearly for this.
    It would sure help if Police would walk the beat in all areas to create a feeling of safety to the public. Right now they only respond to complaints and that is why they have so many complaints and high stats.

  5. It was a crime that Wayne tried to get New Westminster the garbage incinerator again, see some of the comments on T.M. Royal City Record blog.

  6. It’s funny how statistics work.
    You can manipulate data to come out with whatever conclusion you want.

    Another thing is police mandates, if they don’t press charges and just keep pushing the riff-raff along, that further skews the data. It’s like if the Cop’s only gave out warning tickets, they could say we have safer streets with less speeding and fewer violations.
    It might not be true at all, but the data supports that conclusion.

    What you need to do is examine the people on the police board. What interests do they have being on it anyways ? Hmmm….

  7. Crime stats are interesting in how they are measured and interpreted — on a per capita basis.

    For example, from one year to the next, there may be a higher number of reported and/or responded-to incidents, but with a corresponding increase in density, if the population growth out-paces the # of recorded incidents, the result will be reported as a decrease in the crime rate.

    Generations of my family have lived in NW, with law enforcement experience. The fact is, criminal activity is more readily visible than ever, and though crime stats are reportedly “down”, comparatively, so too is the safety of person and property.

  8. Several weeks ago I responded to a story in the NewsLeader that crime in New Westminster has gone down. In my letter to the editor and on the Voice New Westminster blog, I indicated that I, personally, didn’t feel any safer knowing that crime was down in the city. Being safer and feeling safer are two different things, aren’t they? The likelihood of my being mugged in the park is probably low; the likelihood of being hit by a car while crossing the street is higher. I’d prefer not to experience either, and I take equal precautions to ensure that neither happens if I can help it. I believe that’s assessing risk. It would be nice if being and feeling was the same thing.

    Matthew Laird, in the Tenth to the Fraser blog, recently refered to our ancestors being wired to avoid the tiger in the bushes. There are still bushes and there are still tigers in the bushes – regrettably they tend to be the two-legged kind. Last night my car was keyed right in front of the house, Thursday morning shots were fired 8 blocks from my house and less than a week ago, the police arrested a 22 year old man in my neighbourhood on suspicion of drug trafficking. I’m still not feeling safer.

    I recommend reading the Great Neighborhood Book by Jay Walljasper and have a look at a Project for Public Spaces website. If only the guy who keyed my car had.

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