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Canada 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Vancouver

Western Hemisphere > Canada; Western Hemisphere > Canada > Vancouver

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Consulate General Vancouver does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VANCOUVER AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Canada-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

The most notable change from the 2016 Crime and Safety Report on Vancouver, British Columbia (BC), was a dramatic uptick in opioid deaths and reported overdoses. According to the Coroners Service of BC, 914 people died in BC in 2016 from controlled and illegal drug abuse, a majority stemming from fentanyl overdoses. The figures in the report represent a 79% increase from 2015. In a January 2, 2017, article by the Vancouver Sun, similarly reported murders within lower mainland (Pemberton to Boston Bar, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Port Moody) were also on the rise—67; up from 60 in 2015. 

Overall criminal activity is generally lower than levels seen in comparable cities in the U.S. Vancouver’s east side experiences a heavier volume of crimes, connected with higher concentrations of transients and habitual drug-users. Gang activity in the suburbs and greater metropolitan area is an issue. Gang-on-gang violence does occur and may explain the increased murder rate in 2016. 

The pervasiveness of drug dependence continues to drive property crimes upward. The majority of crimes occurring in Vancouver are non-violent. Property crimes remain the biggest threat. Pickpocketing and theft from parked cars in popular tourist destinations (Stanley Park, the area around the cruise ship terminal) is common. Theft from autos, shoplifting, and tourist-related incidents are the most prevalent. The U.S. passport remains a highly sought-after document. Visitors should keep a photocopy of their passport’s first page in a separate location. The downtown east-side corridor typically sees more break-ins involving vehicle and residential thefts. Street crime targeting individuals for robberies is rare. The RSO had one report of an incident affecting U.S. official personnel in 2016: a break-in and theft to the garage of the Consulate’s only government-owned property. When staying in a hotel, visitors should always keep their room door locked and valuables secure in a safety deposit box or room safe.

Other Areas of Concern

The east-side corridor of downtown Vancouver should be avoided. While areas of East Hastings Street and Main Street are filled with attractive boutiques and restaurants, individuals fueling drug addictions are also present.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

BC’s highway and road infrastructure is on par with the U.S. Traffic congestion does play a key factor in road safety. Vancouver’s diverse population is home to persons from around the world, and many drivers may not be accustomed to driving in these conditions. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Pedestrians and bicyclists downtown should use extreme caution, as a number of fatalities involve either aggressive drivers or unobservant pedestrians.

Weather is not as severe as other parts of Canada, yet treacherous winter conditions are not uncommon, and driving can be challenging.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VANCOUVER AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no known specific terrorist threats directed against officials or private U.S. citizens in Vancouver. The Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS) notes that there are a number of international terrorist organizations active in Canada, in part, due to the porous Canadian-U.S. border (longest international border in the world) and Canada’s liberal political asylum policies.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

About two dozen protests were anti-U.S. in 2016. In the majority of cases, the demonstrations involved 5-30 persons, and all were peaceful. U.S. media coverage of police-involved shootings and riots in the U.S. in 2016 prompted a response from Canadians who staged demonstrations in solidarity with organizations (Black Lives Matter). Leading up to and following the inauguration of Donald Trump, Vancouver also witnessed numerous anti-Trump rallies, marches, and protests. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VANCOUVER AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Demonstrations in B.C. address a range of issues: opposition to certain U.S. policies, foreign engagements. There were nearly 300 rallies or demonstrations in the Vancouver metropolitan area in 2016. Despite the frequency of organized protests, the vast majority were/are peaceful and closely monitored by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Vancouver Police Department (VPD). The RCMP and VPD both have a stake in providing first response support capabilities when it comes to political/civil unrest.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Natural disasters, though rare, are a focus of the emergency management agencies at municipal and provincial levels. Seismic experts indicate that the deep, sediment-filled basin found within the Cascadia Region (western Washington state to northern BC) could precipitate a major earthquake (8.0-9.0 magnitude).

Drug-related Crimes

Canada reportedly has 950 gangs. Some consider Vancouver to be ground zero for a U.S.$7 billion annual drug trade in western Canada, which has included significant illegal fentanyl and fentanyl precursor importations from China. Asian organized crime and outlaw motorcycle gangs operate throughout BC, trafficking goods to the U.S., Australia, and Japan. Marijuana cross-border trafficking, kidnapping, extortions, and homicides are the primary means that these elements support their illicit activities. Gang tensions between international drug distribution networks (Sikh, Asian, Punjabi, Mexican organizations) remain high. U.S. private sector interests have not been significantly influenced by these activities. There is a prevailing concern that continuing gang violence could impact the public, and law enforcement agencies focus on gang activity.

Police Response

Police services are extremely professional and proactive in their enforcement efforts. The RCMP and VPD possess well-trained, well-equipped specialized units that can be on-scene within 10-45 minutes. Working relationships between the U.S. officials and local authorities are excellent.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police detention of an American citizen should be directed to the U.S. Consulate’s American Citizen Services (ACS) during normal business hours. All issues involving U.S. diplomats or American citizens detained after hours should be directed to the Consulate Duty officer. The RSO will address issues of police harassment.

Crime Victim Assistance

All police agencies and emergency medical services in BC employ standard 911 capabilities. Victims of crime are advised to call 911 to report crimes.

Local police agencies seldom notify the U.S. Consulate when they receive reports of crimes involving American citizens. In rare cases where the death of a U.S. citizen occurs or a U.S. citizen commits a serious crime, the Consulate is notified.

Police/Security Agencies

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is the police of jurisdiction in Vancouver and has responsibility for managing the full spectrum of police services. The Vancouver Police Department is the central repository for reporting crime within the city.

The RCMP is mainly responsible for the federal policing and national security-related issues.

Medical Emergencies

Contact 911 for medical and all other emergency assistance as well.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Vancouver General Hospital is a full service trauma certified hospital with an airlift unit. The hospital is located in central Vancouver at 950 W. 10th Avenue. Tel (604) 875-4111.

Available Air Ambulance Services

British Columbia Ambulance Service can be reached at (604) 660-6006.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Canada.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Vancouver. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Vancouver or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

1075 West Pender Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6E 2M6

Consulate Contact Numbers 

Regional Security Office (604) 642-6672

Consulate Operator (604) 685-4311

Consular Affairs Duty Office Answering Service (604) 681-3022

Embassy Ottawa - Post One (613) 688-5249

Website: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/vancouver/

Nearby Posts

Embassy Ottawa: https://ca.usembassy.gov/

Consulate Calgary: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/calgary/

Consulate Halifax: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/halifax/

Consulate Montreal: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/montreal/

Consulate Quebec: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/quebec/

Consulate Toronto: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/toronto/

Consulate Winnipeg: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/winnipeg/

Additional Resources

Canada Country Information Sheet