Vancouver Police tracking major uptick in commercial and construction burglaries


The trend follows more people staying home during the coronavirus pandemic

VANCOUVER — Crime in the city of Vancouver isn’t necessarily up, amid the ongoing stay-at-home order, but criminals certainly are adjusting their habits.

A Vancouver Police cruiser. Stock photo by Mike Schultz
A Vancouver Police cruiser. Stock photo by Mike Schultz

In data presented at last Monday’s virtual meeting of the Vancouver City Council, Assistant Police Chief Jim Mori said they’re seeing commercial burglaries increase sharply over last year, specifically at construction sites.

“As of last week, we had over 40 commercial construction-type burglars at some of these construction sites,” Mori told the council. “And to put that into comparison, last year, we had just a little over 30 construction-type burglaries.”

Overall, a report issued by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) shows commercial burglaries are up 33 percent in the past year, with increases also noted in apartment and residential garage theft, as well as residential construction sites.

Commercial burglaries are up sharply during the stay-at-home order, according to Vancouver Police. This Minit Mart on Vancouver Mall Drive at NE 72nd was broken into early Tuesday morning. Photo by Mike Schultz
Commercial burglaries are up sharply during the stay-at-home order, according to Vancouver Police. This Minit Mart on Vancouver Mall Drive at NE 72nd was broken into early Tuesday morning. Photo by Mike Schultz

The change comes as more people are staying home amid the coronavirus pandemic, or working from home. So crooks are following the path of opportunity, and grabbing tools and other items from construction sites. That includes active sites, such as several schools under construction in the Evergreen and Vancouver School Districts.

“They’re breaking into even locked utility trailers that are there,” said Mori. “But they’re also stealing things like appliances and any of the electrical equipment that they can get.”

According to Mori, 30 percent of property crimes reported during this period were break-ins of vehicles, with people parked outside of their houses for longer periods of time.

“There’s probably also a message to all of us that we need to be very vigilant,” said Councilor Ty Stober, “and making sure we remember to lock our cars and take things out of our vehicles.”

Mori said car prowls are up over 40 percent, with many of the problems happening near hiking trails and outdoor recreation areas, as well as apartment parking lots during the early morning hours.

Overall, crime reports are up more than 20 percent over last year, with the sharpest increases in burglary, car prowls, and vandalism. Declines have been seen in reports of rape and driving under the influence.

This graph shows crime trends over the past seven weeks, compared against the previous two years. Image courtesy Vancouver Police Department
This graph shows crime trends over the past seven weeks, compared against the previous two years. Image courtesy Vancouver Police Department

Mori says the agency is adjusting by shifting enforcement around.

“The command managers from the different precincts are pushing patrol resources in areas they believe are going to be highly vulnerable,” he told the council.

Overall, calls for service have been relatively in line with the previous two years. Domestic Violence and verbal abuse complaints were up slightly over five-year trends.

A graph showing property crimes trends this year, compared against the five-year average. Image courtesy Vancouver Police Department
A graph showing property crimes trends this year, compared against the five-year average. Image courtesy Vancouver Police Department
A graph showing domestic violence reports over the past seven weeks as compared to the five-year average. Image courtesy Vancouver Police Department
A graph showing domestic violence reports over the past seven weeks as compared to the five-year average. Image courtesy Vancouver Police Department

Mori noted that, while self-initiated traffic enforcement is down with officers focusing on other areas, the agency has ramped up focused patrols in recent weekends targeting an increase on street racing along the waterfront and parts of Mill Plain.

“We targeted aggressive drivers, trying to go after our most dangerous drivers, as well as any of the — for lack of a better word — the sport racing that is happening here in the metropolitan area,” Mori added. “And I know we made over 300 contacts or stops over that timeframe and issued some citations as well.”

VPD also handed out some warnings at an impromptu event on Friday night that brought close to 1,000 vehicles into downtown Vancouver, though no citations were issued. Mori said they became aware of the event late Thursday evening or Friday morning, but would endeavor to be more proactive in the future.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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