Five shootings have occurred in the Downtown Eastside over the last six weeks, with the latest happening Saturday afternoon.
Vancouver police were called to Dunlevy Avenue, just west of Oppenheimer Park, Oct. 26, around 3:30 p.m. and found a 53-year-old woman with serious injuries.
The victim has been identified as a Powell River resident who was visiting a man staying in Oppenheimer Park’s homeless camp.
She was shot while stopped in a vehicle near Dunlevy and transported to hospital for what police described as non-life threatening injuries. No suspects have been arrested and witnesses are asked to call the Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541 or to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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.
The VPD and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services have consistently raised red flags about the park’s health and safety conditions dating back to the spring. The police suggested officers wouldn’t go into the park unless in teams of four and advised Vancouverites to avoid the neighbourhood altogether.
Deputy Chief Howard Chow told reporters in late September that a turf war among rivalling gangs was making matters worse in Oppenheimer and across the Downtown Eastside.
The VPD busted a murder plot by arresting three street gang members who were allegedly planning to kill a rival drug trafficker who operates near Oppenheimer earlier this month.
Vancouver’s homeless population was recorded in March at 2,223 people. Estimates vary on the number of people living in Oppenheimer, with 50 identified by city staff and up to 150 per night counted by campers at the park.
Saturday’s shooting happened right around the one-year mark of the city’s third iteration of homeless camps at Oppenheimer over the last 11 years. Similar camps were set up in 2008 and again in 2014. The city was granted court-ordered injunctions to remove campers in both cases.
That’s looking increasingly unlikely this time out.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart asked for temporary jurisdiction of Oppenheimer from the park board in September to roll out a plan that could include an injunction.
The park board rejected the mayor’s request for temporary jurisdiction, with park board chairperson Stuart Mackinnon calling instead for a multi-jurisdictional task force to address homelessness across Vancouver.
Last week, council successfully approved a motion requesting city staff work with the park board to consider adding a community kitchen, laundry, clothes drying spaces and 24-hour sanitation facilities with running water near Oppenheimer Park.
Green Party Coun. Michael introduced the motion, telling the Courier last week that the move represents two courses of action: get people housed before the winter temperatures drop and have the park returned to a “functional” state by next summer.
“Our goal is that next summer, hopefully, we have a park that’s functional,”’ Wiebe said. “We bring back the positive programming the park board has done, with dinners in the park and dancing in the park — and really trying to make neighbours feel connected.”
— with files from Mike Howell