A sixth person has been shot in the Downtown Eastside in the span of just over three months, as the seemingly never-ending debate over what to do with remaining campers looks to stretch into the new year.
The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) responded to reports of shots fired near Oppenheimer Park around 5:30 p.m. Thursday and a man was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin told the Courier Friday morning that the victim remained in hospital overnight and is expected to make a full recovery.
“A person was apprehended last night and questioned by police, but that person has since been released,” Visintin said in an email. “No one has been charged at this time.”
The investigation remains ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call the VPD’s Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
The shooting took place just three days after the latest round of political jockeying between the park board, city and VPD.
During an in-camera meeting Monday, the park board approved steps towards what it referred to as a “decampment plan” along with the prospect of a court-ordered injunction that would force campers out of the beleaguered park.
The encampment contravenes a park board bylaw preventing anyone from setting up a tent, shelter or building in a city park.
The park board’s latest measures include: bringing in a third party to conduct an independent assessment of the current situation in Oppenheimer Park and provide recommendations to enhance safety, provide support and seek appropriate shelter for people camping in the park.
That work will be done with a focus on reconciliation and in consultation with those remaining in the park, according to a park board press release.
Numerous attempts by the city and B.C. Housing have been made to move campers into nearby shelter space and single room occupancy hotels dating back to August.
Despite that, park board commissioners have directed staff to “deepen existing partnerships between the city, B.C. Housing and the park board” and to revise the current bylaw, which precludes people from sheltering in parks, in order to bring it up to current standards, in accordance with other municipalities, and to meet legal precedent.
The board has authorized general manager Malcolm Bromley to seek an injunction once those conditions are met.
Bromley first ordered campers out of the park in August. A notice was issued and campers were given two days to remove all tents and structures. Many did, with more than 100 accepting housing offers from the city.
Many remained, however, and the encampment has grown since then.
Late last month two fires, believed to be started by propane heaters and barbecues, destroyed tents and other belongings.
It’s been a common occurrence dating back to February, when a Fire Chief’s order was put in place that set out numerous conditions to reduce the fire hazard for people living in the park.
Compliance with that order has been limited, as more than 20 fires were reported in the period spanning February to August.
Five shootings occurred in the Downtown Eastside over a six-week period between mid-September to late October.
The most recent incident took place Oct. 26 near Dunlevy Avenue, when a 53-year-old woman was shot by her son.
Four shootings were reported in the Downtown Eastside in the span of a week near the end of September. The first two happened on Sept. 22 within two hours of one another — near East Hastings Street and Dunlevy Avenue and another in the area of East Pender and Abbott streets — followed by a Sept. 23 incident at the Grand Union Hotel.
A 35-year-old Surrey man was then shot Sept. 29 near East Hastings and Heatley Avenue.
Similar camps were set up in Oppenheimer in 2008 and again in 2014. The city was granted court-ordered injunctions to remove campers in both cases.
— with files from Mike Howell and Jessica Kerr