Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood is getting a new community policing centre but some residents say it sends the wrong message about how to keep a growing neighbourhood safe.
Vancouver city council approved a new community policing centre for the neighbourhood after the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association called for the move in response to increased population growth in the area.
Sarah Kirby-Yung, the city councillor who introduced the motion, says a community policing centre can help bridge the gap between co-ordinating services and helping people.
“They’re very unique. They’re very independent. They’re much more proactive. They engage with the community and the programs come from the community,” said Kirby-Yung.
Community policing centres are run in partnership by staff, volunteers and members of the Vancouver Police Department, who create crime prevention programs and initiatives tailored to address local neighbourhood concerns.
Mount Pleasant has become an increasingly sought-after neighbourhood to live in, given it’s close to the downtown core and filled with popular cafés, shops, and restaurants.
The Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association cites the 25 per cent growth in the neighbourhood’s population between 2011 and 2016 and says the density of the neighbourhood is poised to keep growing as new condo developments continue to take shape.
But there have been some growing pains — like tension between business owners and residents, some of whom are living on the street, over bathroom use.
Meenakshi Mannoe, Pivot Legal’s criminalization and policing campaigner, says policing shouldn’t be the first answer when addressing social issues.
“In a community like Mount Pleasant where the population is rapidly growing, we’re going to see more social problems and problems rooted in inequality,” said Mannoe.
She also expressed concerns whether the community policing centre would be sufficiently independent from the Vancouver Police Department.
“The concern is that we’re really inviting increased police presence into the community under the guise of the community policing centre.”
The Vancouver police have come under greater scrutiny given high-profile scandals — like the Indigenous grandfather and granddaughter who were wrongfully detained outside a Bank of Montreal in 2020.
That incident, among others, led Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to step down as the public face of the city’s police board, saying he could not support a department whose lack of action on systemic racism he finds “indefensible.”
Mannoe says instead of a community policing hub, the neighbourhood actually needs to think of an alternative model. This could include a low barrier, 24-hour drop in centre, more harm reduction and health programming, more public washroom access, supportive housing and other social programming.
Kirby-Yung says Mannoe’s suggestions and a community policing centre need not be mutually exclusive.
“I don’t think it’s an either-or, I think it’s an and. I think we need to be providing more of these services and I think they can complement each other,” she said.