Sunday, October 12, 1997

Shane McCune
Vancouver Reporter

p. A22.

Outdoor cafe seating, as enjoyed by these patrons of a bakery near Commercial Drive, was strongly supported by neighborhood residents. But a big majority of the community were unhappy about sex-trade workers plying their trade in residential areas or near schools.

Outdoor cafe seating, as enjoyed by these patrons of a bakery near Commercial Drive, was strongly supported by neighborhood residents. But a big majority of the community were unhappy about sex-trade workers plying their trade in residential areas or near schools. Staff file photo by Arien Redekop

Drive's denizens happy despite high crime rate

Police survey finds tolerant residents enjoy variety in their community

Denizens of Commercial Drive prefer public pot-smoking to public drinking, enjoy the drummers in Grandview Park and aren't even that upset about "squeegee people" at the neighborhood's busiest intersection.

That, at least, is the impression conveyed in a survey conducted for the Britannia community police office by Eileen Mosca and Valerie Spicer, a volunteer and a part-time employee, respectively.

With help from CPO volunteers, Simon Fraser University criminology professor Patricia Brantingham and her students, the pair polled people living, working or visiting the Commercial Drive area, dropping off copies at businesses and personally interviewing scores of individuals. Of 1,100 surveys distributed, 720 were completed.

"We just figured it would be interesting for our office to present to the police department some information about what the community wants," said Spicer, adding that the results will also come in handy when dealing with city hall.

They found that 79 per cent of respondents greatly enjoy living in Grandview-Woodland, even though "an astonishing 43 per cent have been victims of property crime.

Respondents were asked to rate various elements of the neighborhood on a scale of one to five: Completely unacceptable, unacceptable, tolerable, acceptable or completely acceptable.

They were also asked if they had seen the activity in the area in the previous six months.

For example, prostitutes (described as "sex trade workers") working in residential areas or near schools were rated completely unacceptable by 76 per cent, unacceptable by 14 per cent, tolerable by five per cent, acceptable by three per cent and completely acceptable by two per cent.

Fifty-nine per cent of those polled had seen this activity in the previous six months.

But, the Drive being the Drive, some pollees were angry that the question was asked at all. Some said police should leave hookers alone and arrest the johns.

One commented: Legalize prostitution, stop revictimizing the women by criminalizing them. Punish and drive away the rapist johns. Make them clean up the needles and condoms."

Drinking in public and pot-smoking in public were both rated tolerable by about one in five respondents. However, pot-smoking was rated unacceptable or completely unacceptable by 44 per cent and acceptable or completely acceptable by 35 per cent.

The comparable figures for drinking were 54 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively.

"Someone who is drunk is a little more threatening than someone who is strung out on pot," Spicer explained.

Young people who hover at intersections, offering to clean windshields for small change, are cited as a nuisance by many Vancouverites, but Drive habitueés seem surprisingly tolerant of the "squeegee people" at First and Commercial.

Only 39 per cent rated the practice unacceptable, 32 per cent rated tolerable and 29 per cent acceptable.

Respondents were fairly evenly divided on unleashed dogs in parks and passive panhandlers.

But the survey showed strong support for outdoor cafe seating, street musicians, public art, community festivals and needle exchange programs.

There was also widespread disapproval of aggressive panhandlers, litter, and discarded needles and condoms.

Copies of the survey may be examined at the CPO office in the Britannia Information Centre, 1661 Napier, or at the Britannia branch of the Vancouver Public Library.


Sample comments from the Commercial Drive survey:

  • "Please stop harassing street vendors, squeegee people, artists and womyn working the streets."

  • "I like political graffiti. Racist, sexist and homophobic graffiti is completely unacceptable."

  • I think something should be done with hookers and drug addicts and drunks in the parks."

  • "About street musicians: If they are good (technically) they are desirable (a good thing), if they are less technically proficient (such as bongo drummers, but not limited to them), they are completely unacceptable."

  • "The drumming makes me want to move away from a house I've lived in for 15 years."

  • "Cleaning up after a dog is a more crucial issue than whether it is leashed, to my mind. This and the manners of the creature."

  • "Dislike panhandlers on street, need to get a job."

  • "People with 'invented incomes,' i.e. panhandlers and squeegees, aren't committing crimes, they are committing capitalism."

  • "It would be good to see more police around the area on foot or bikes."

  • "We don't need anymore cops. Perhaps we need less fancy things like expensive cars and stuff in the neighborhood."

  • "Needles on the ground, B&Es in the houses, heroin addicts that are professional shoplifters, aggressive panhandlers, garbage from McDonalds. The five worst offences on the Drive."

  • "Grandview area is more littered, run down than when I moved here 18 years ago. Then it was a very pleasant area to reside. Now I don't know if my children are safe here."

  • "I like our little neighborhood, we get a lot of freaks here, but this is our neighborhood and most of us are good people, gentle people."

  • "Wouldn't live anywhere else."

  • "Excellent survey."

  • "Why only two genders?"

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Created: October 13, 1997
Last modified: June 19, 1999

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