Stranger Assaults and Being a Good Witness 

If you pay any attention to the Vancouver news then you’re probably aware that there have recently been some alarming incidents of stranger assault in the city. Some of these have been caught on video and have been shared widely.

Deputy Chief Howard Chow of the Vancouver Police Department reports that police are receiving on average four reports a day of people being assaulted by strangers. Many of these assaults are being carried out by “a new category of offender,” many with hundreds of police interactions on their records. Mental health is often a factor.

Constable Kimberly Albright, the Neighbourhood Police Officer for Hastings Sunrise, says these assaults are a high priority issue for the VPD. She emphasizes the importance of being a good witness. “Trust your guts. If something doesn’t feel right, then report it to the police. Better to have something reported to police than not, so they can determine if it’s relevant.”

Being a good witness also means looking out for yourself. Cst. Albright reminds witnesses to “maintain your own safety by keeping your distance or retreating out of the area when necessary, while making a mental note of descriptions and any details related to the incident.”

Once you are safe and you’ve called the police, she recommends that you take notes while your memory is fresh. “After the incident, it’s always a good idea to write down your observations as this will assist with recalling everything you wanted to provide to police.”

For women in the community who would like to develop some skill in keeping safe, Cst. Albright recommends signing up for a safety workshop.

“Now that restrictions are lifting, the VPD Women’s Personal Safety Team, which is composed of volunteer policewomen, will be conducting more in-person workshops on personal safety. Their schedule with dates and event location will be available on the VPD website.”

Personal Safety Tips

• Pay attention to what’s around you. Don’t fixate on what you’re doing.
• Look around before you leave your front door or your vehicle and before you approach your vehicle.
• Look close and far. Notice potential problems in advance and make decisions early.
• Project awareness and confidence.
• Trust your intuition and instincts. You are processing more information than you are consciously aware of. Listen to your gut feelings.
• If you are being followed and feel unsafe call 9-1-1
• Carry a whistle or personal defence alarm.
• Yell. Call for help. Fight.
• Report an incident to police as soon as possible.

For more safety tips or for information on the Women’s Personal Safety Team, visit