Here's what happened to crime rates in Vancouver during the pandemic

·2 min read
As Vancouver stores closed their doors in March 2020, reports of shoplifting dropped dramatically. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit)
As Vancouver stores closed their doors in March 2020, reports of shoplifting dropped dramatically. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit)

There was a dramatic increase in domestic violence and other family-related calls to Vancouver police during the early months of the pandemic, according to the most recent data from Statistics Canada.

The numbers paint a picture of which crimes spiked during the months when pandemic restrictions were in place and which crimes decreased.

In March 2020, as B.C. health officials implemented restrictions that forced people into isolation at home, calls to Vancouver police for domestic disturbances and disputes peaked at 514 in a month.

The number of monthly domestic calls stayed above or near 500 until the end of the summer, months after B.C. restrictions began to ease in May.

Calls for domestic disturbances/disputes in Vancouver

The executive director of Battered Women's Support Services said that trend is consistent with a dramatic increase in domestic violence-related calls the Vancouver-based crisis centre received in the first four months of the pandemic.

"What does surprise me, however, is how considerably low those numbers are in relation to what I know many frontline community-based ... women's organizations were seeing in Vancouver," said Angela Marie MacDougall, who estimates that her organization received over 2,000 calls in March alone.

"It gives me a sense that most victims, most survivors, were not contacting the police, but were reaching out to friends and family and to community-based organizations."

While the number of overall assaults reported to Vancouver police went down during those early pandemic months, there was an increase in family assaults.

Assaults by family in Vancouver

MacDougall said the assaults reported to crisis centres across B.C. were not only more frequent, but also more violent.

"We know that the social isolation measures that were established in order to help prevent COVID transmission, we know that that played into the hands and gave a lot of power to abusive partners," she said.

Calls for service and child welfare check

Outside of the home, there was a notable drop in crimes related to businesses and property theft.

With malls and retail stores forced to close their brick and mortar locations, there were less than a quarter of shoplifting reports in April 2020 compared to the same month in 2019.

Those numbers inched up as restrictions were lifted and stores once again opened for business with reduced capacity.

There was also a dramatic decrease in breaking and entering of both residential and non-residential establishments.

Calls for shoplifting in Vancouver from 2019 to 2021

Total breaking and entering calls in Vancouver

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