Have you ever thought why you feel uncomfortable and unsafe while walking or driving in a shabby-looking neighbourhood with buildings covered with graffiti and streets littered with garbage? Your gut feeling tells you: local residents stopped caring for this area and it is most likely ridden with crime. Your feelings do not deceive you.
It has been proven by numerous criminology studies and is now called the Broken Window Theory. Signs of decay in a neighbourhood make residents withdraw from public life which in turn gives rise to street crime. That is why keeping Hastings Sunrise clean and tidy is one of the top priorities for the Hastings Sunrise Community Policing Centre (HSCPC).
“We go graffiti scouting every week,” says HSCPC Program Coordinator Tommy Luong. A group of volunteers equipped with paints and cleaning supplies walk along Hastings Street washing off tags or painting them over.
“For example, in 2018 we removed 678 tags,” Tommy notes. “Our graffiti team also reported 711 sites to the city or other contractors to paint over.” And since graffiti vandalism is a crime in Vancouver and property owners are responsible for removing the tags, the volunteers’ efforts are always appreciated by the local businesses.
Every other Saturday, the HSCPC holds community cleanups. Volunteers, often joined by people living in the area, pick up garbage from the streets near the community policing office. “Everyone is welcome,” Tommy says. Local residents willing to keep their neighbourhood clean as well as high school students collecting their volunteer hours do not need to go through the extensive volunteer recruitment process.
“All they need is just to call the office (604-717-3584) and sign up for the next date that suits them,” he explains. “They fill out a community participant form and are ready to go.” Teenagers under 18 need a parent to sign the waiver for them.
The HSCPC volunteers clean parks and playgrounds in the area, collect disposed needles and assist residents who want their blocks of streets to be cleaned. “We provide gloves, tongs and garbage bags to anyone who needs them,” says Tommy.
As supervisor of the Business Safety Team at the HSCPC, he plans to invite companies working in Hastings Sunrise to take part in a major cleanup this spring. “We will set up our tent beside No Frills store at the intersection of Clark Drive and Hastings Street. We hope that the local businesses will join us and together we will pay attention to an area that we do not cover very often,” Tommy adds.