Mapping Vancouver Crime – Part 2

[Editor's Note: We are pleased to present the second part of Ian Lowrie's investigation into Vancouver crime patterns. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.]

In Part One of Mapping Vancouver Crime, we looked at intensities of crime at the scale of the entire city as well as its relationship to topography and density. The maps are not intended to deduce the most dangerous neighbourhoods of Vancouver but are rather meant to illustrate at different scales where crime is happening in Vancouver and to take a critical look at the built form of those places.

In Part Two, we zoom in on some of the most affected areas of the city in search for finer grain spatial trends. The following maps give readers information on commercial and residential break-ins at different scales.

Specific instances are pointed out in neighbourhoods that have shown high rates of criminal activity. Although the data fails to locate crime with high precision, it does allow for the investigation of block and building organization patterns – as seen in figure-ground maps. Notably, you will find that the apartment buildings of Kerrisdale with large landscaped perimeters had high rates of residential break and enter.

Turning our attention to different crime patterns, the following images depict information on stolen vehicles and theft from automobiles at different scales:

One of the most dominant patterns from the information shown is the high rate of theft from vehicles the strip malls of Joyce-Collingwood.

Vancouverites have their own perceptions of where danger exists in the city. Without question, crime is linked to a seemingly endless number of social and economic intricacies. While several of these factors can be mapped, the complexity of such issues makes a comprehensive examination difficult. This being the case, one must be careful not to make unjust presumptions about those involved; namely, who is the criminal and who is the victim.

For these reasons, I have chosen not to focus on the Downtown Eastside because—although the area bares one of the biggest bruises in the city crime maps featured in Part One and is repeatedly mentioned as a place to avoid— criminal activity in parts of the V6A postal code are so entrenched in social, economic, and public health issues that it would be misplaced to discuss its spatial attributes as a significant contributor to crime.

The purpose here is not to profile the people involved in crime but rather the spaces in which it occurs. And while places are defined by the people that occupy them, modern planning methods have city spaces and its spatial structure designed by people other than its users.

Consequently, this very fact is sometimes used as an easy scapegoat for people looking to blame others for local criminal activity. Unlike socio-economic factors that are tough to characterize, the built environment in which crime occurs—as organized by planners, architects, and designers— can be easily linked back to a specific person or group of people.

Case in point: in 2008 a high school student was brutally beaten and raped while she walked from her car to a book drop-off box at a regional library in Tampa, Florida. The architect and contractor are being sued for the design of the after hours book return with claims that the layout of the facility made the victim vulnerable, and as a result directly contributed to the attack.

It is not my intention to debate whether or not architects or designers should be held legally responsible for crimes that occur in or outside buildings that they have designed, but I do believe that there needs to be a concerted consideration for public safety in designing our cities.

How have planners and architects acted as criminal accessories? How have they protected potential victims? In the next part of Mapping Vancouver Crime we will take the view of the pedestrian and examine parts of the streetscape that suggest safety or danger.

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Mapping Vancouver CrimePart One

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Ian Lowrie is a member of studioCAMP. He holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from the University of British Columbia.