Police are warning the public to avoid Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park, where a large encampment has erected in recent months leading to increased safety risks.
On Wednesday night around 10:30 p.m., police officers were on patrol in the Downtown Eastside when they heard gunshots near the park, police said in a news release Thursday. A 31-year-old man was found with a gunshot wound near Powell Street and Jackson Avenue, and remains in stable condition.
Police said it was believed the suspect fled on foot through Oppenheimer Park, and officers later cleared the park in order to investigate. No arrests have been made at this time.
This isn’t the first incident to occur at the park as the tent city continues to grow, Sgt. Jason Robillard said during a news conference Thursday. Police issued a warning public to avoid the area when possible.
“I would not recommend anyone bringing their children through Oppenheimer Park right now,” he said.
Vancouver Police investigate shooting in Oppenheimer ParkPolice express concern about safety in the park https://t.co/jcm7ZsNuEY
— Vancouver Police (@VancouverPD) July 11, 2019
Earlier this week, a police officer was kicked in the knee at least three times as she tried to remove a man that had jumped onto a garbage truck while city crews were cleaning up the park.
“Police are responding to several 911 calls in the park every day and we are very concerned about the safety of the people staying there, our officers, firefighters, and City of Vancouver staff,” Robillard said, adding that in at least one case VPD officers expressed concern that they didn’t feel comfortable attending the park in groups of less than four members.
There were 92 emergency calls for police response to the park in June, and 87 in May, according to police. Last year, there were 56 calls each of those months.
It’s not unusual for the odd tent to be raised during the evening at the park and it’s unclear exactly when that number started to grow.
“The park’s quite crowded, there are some unsanitary conditions where officers noticed some rodents running around,” Robillard said.
Vancouver police have brought concerns to the city and Robillard said that they are working with staff on a daily basis.
Anyone who may have witnessed the shooting on Wednesday night, or who has information that may help police, is asked to call the VPD’s Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.
This step here today is for us to highlight the conditions currently at the park, not only for our officers but for the people at the park,” Robillard said.