After reporting an uptick in unprovoked stranger attacks last fall, Vancouver Police took their public safety message to the streets Saturday in an effort to connect with residents in four communities.

Pop-up tents were set up from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Main and Keefer Streets in Chinatown, the West End Community Centre, Olympic Village Square and Fraser Street and East 49th Avenue – where officers and local policing centre volunteers handed out free personal safety alarms and listened to the public’s concerns.

VPD Const. Byron Yee, a 21-year veteran of the force, said the message he and his colleagues are hearing is clear.

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“The fact that they don’t feel safe on the streets, the fact that sometimes they need help – and people aren’t really seeing and hearing them,” Yee told Global News.

Last October, the department said its crime analysts determined the city was averaging an alarming four random attacks per day – according to statistics on assaults reported to the VPD between Sept. 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021.

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On New Year’s Eve, a 22-year-old Asian woman was grabbed and thrown to the ground on busy West Georgia Street in a disturbing incident that is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Last month, a 25-year-old Mexican tourist was stabbed by a stranger inside a Tim Hortons.

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One day earlier, a 74-year-old man was robbed of his laptop in a public library bathroom stall.

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Suspects have been arrested and charged in all three attacks.

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“There [are] a lot of people who are hurting, there are a lot of people who are living with very complex social needs – things like drug addiction, untreated mental health and poverty,” said Sgt. Steve Addison with the VPD.

“We’re working with our partners to address a lot of these complex social needs.”

2:12Vancouver Police see uptick in stranger assaults

Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart did not respond to a Global News request for an interview on public safety Saturday.

On Jan. 19, after police released surveillance video of the Dec. 31 stranger attack, Stewart said he felt safe walking around the streets of downtown Vancouver.

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Last Sept., the mayor called police when he felt “unsafe” at a Yaletown wine merchant.

“A customer in the store started to harass me directly,” Stewart told Global News on Sept. 20.

“But then was actually quite aggressive with my wife Jeanette.”

Vancouver police responded to the mayor’s 911 call for a verbal altercation at Swirl Wine Store on Sept. 18.

After conducting several witness interviews and reviewing video of the incident, the VPD later concluded there was no basis for a criminal charge.

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Meantime, the department says the pop-up safety initiative will continue after dozens of personal safety alarms were distributed to citizens on Saturday.

“They’re really loud so I got one for myself, got one for my daughter, and my son got one for his girlfriend,” one woman told Global News.

“Now I feel more comfortable walking here in Chinatown,” said another young woman who received an alarm.

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Police said they will also be maintaining a more visible presence in high-crime areas.

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