The Safest Neighbourhoods for Living in Vancouver

Street of Vancouver City by Hibino
Street of Vancouver City by Hibino

With a couple of exceptions, Vancouver is generally a safe city. In fact, it repeatedly ranks in the list of world’s most liveable cities, where crime rates are one of the factors used to determine a city’s liveability score.

Even though the overall crime rates are low, like in any big city, there is crime in Vancouver ~ and therefore, certain parts of the city should be navigated with more caution than others. But really, Vancouver isn't known for being a mecca of violent crimes. We have it pretty easy.

The majority of crimes that occur here are non-violent in nature and are primarily theft.  Auto theft, shoplifting, and tourist-related incidents are frequently reported - but the most common type of crime type in Vancouver is actually property crime. Basically, there are are too many groups and individuals who try to fund their drug or alcohol addictions by the re-sale of stolen goods. So this isn't a city where you want to leave a bicycle unlocked or accidentally leave an iphone on a bench... the chances of a return are slim.

All our upscale neighbourhoods are relatively safe and except for residential home burglaries, they do not see much other criminal activity. So here are some tips as to how you can avoid potential dangers in some of Vancouver’s more urban neighbourhoods.

1. Vancouver Downtown

Just like any other city, Vancouver’s downtown residential host some fairly exclusive properties, with pretty high security. So believe it or not, it's one of the safest neighbourhoods within city limits. Over half a million people, both locals and tourists, enter this area daily; so this part of the city never really vacates completely. The hub of Vancouver transit, malls and shopping areas, restaurants, plus the bars means that there's usually at least a handful of ordinary people mulling about. However, be careful with your personal belongings. This isn't an area of town where you can leave stuff in your car unattended overnight, as the downtown streets typically see more auto burglaries than home break-ins.

The downtown area consists of three fairly affluent communities: history-rich Gastown, the hip and fashionable Yaletown, and the fast-growing and glassy towers of Coal Harbour. You've also got the neighbourhood of Chinatown, North America’s third largest Chinese community.

Yaletown by Davidbrokenshire
Yaletown by Davidbrokenshire

Yaletown is a perfect example of what a successful urban regeneration project should look like. Once an industrial district with warehouses and rail yards, it has since become one of the trendiest if not the trendiest community in all of Vancouver. With an average household income of $70,870, it’s no surprise that many of Vancouver’s break-ins attempts take place in this thriving, upscale neighbourhood. Luxury apartment buildings and modern condos might attract thieves more than any other part of Vancouver, but they are hard to get in to. Yaletown is a real hub in the city and therefore it’s always busy. The streets are well lit and business are open very late. The one place that is not lit well is the seawall, so be cautious when going along it after dark. The same applies to Coal Harbour and Gastown, areas booming with tourists, shops, restaurants and attractions such as the Coal Harbour Community Centre, Harbour Green Park, the Coal Harbour Seawall, the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, and Butchart Gardens.

These areas are attractive for young professionals working in the heart of the city, single people without families, and sometimes even small families (You'd be surprised how many families are raising kids there ~ hence the uproar about needing more schools downtown).

Chinatown, on the other hand, represents a different set of urban rules in regards to theft. The golden rule when visiting it is: never, ever leave anything in sight in the car. To be honest, during the day the area is fine. There is a truly vibrant atmosphere with lots of shops. The grocery and produce stores are a real experience, and the restaurants are great. Hanging around at night, however, is a totally different story... in such close proximity to Main and Hastings, the realities of a large population of disenfranchised addicts are visible to anyone, day or night.

2. Downtown Eastside

Downtown Eastside by alexmh17
Downtown Eastside by Alexmh17

In contrast to other downtown communities (with the exception of Chinatown), the Downtown Eastside is infamously known for its high crime rate. Many of its underdeveloped properties are home to lower-income families and individuals (specifically Hastings Street between Abbott and Gore). While these people are not particularly violent, lots of folks feel a bit uncomfortable walking around this area of the city and witnessing first hand the tragic effects of homelessness and drug addiction. The area itself is not extremely dangerous, (you'd be surprised at how friendly people are and the interesting conversations you can have) but if you are uncomfortable seeing the inverse or mirror effect of Vancouver's affluence, steer clear.

3. West End

This vibrant, densely populated residential community has many apartment buildings, but no detached or single-family homes. The West End, specifically Davie Village, is a hub for the city’s gay community. The West End is considered a safe neighbourhood, but extra precautions should be taken when visiting the world-renowned Stanley Park. This otherwise beautiful park with many attractions such as the Miniature Train, the Vancouver Aquarium, “Horse-Drawn Tours”, and the Variety Kids Water Park can look pretty scary after dark, so late-night walks are definitely not recommended. Try to avoid its isolated corners, especially if you visit the park alone. Attacks are not very common, but just like with other popular parks around the world, it’s good to be aware that some attacks have happened in the past - why risk it?

4. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is a popular neighbourhood with both residential and business properties. However, since it borders the Downtown Eastside, some people think that its north edge is dangerous. Other than that, this area of the city is perceived as a very friendly community that emphasizes the arts, design and green living.  It’s a mixed bag of residents that vary in age, culture and income; it has both big food chains and independent eateries, modern shops and antique stores. The community and grass roots organizations are strong, which is reflected in the existence of organizations such as the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House and the Mt. Pleasant Family Centre.

5. Hastings-Sunrise

Hastings Sunrise by Richard Winchell
Hastings Sunrise by Richard Winchell

Hastings has a pretty bad reputation as a community...even if it really shouldn't. Crime-wise, it's still one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods of the city for theft. The area is primarily residential, with many character homes. Break ins have been common in the past, but in the last 10 years the area has really cleaned up - and is even transforming in name - now heralded as the East Village. These days, Hastings street is filled with lovely shops, restaurants, and bars. You can tell that it's an up and coming neighbourhood ~ the next Mount Pleasant, in my opinion.

6. Kitsilano

The friendly neighbourhood of Kitsilano with its boutiques, organic markets, restaurants, and popular beaches is a favourite hood for young people, students and small families. In the past, it was a famous hippie haven. Nowadays, it’s a place that has pretty much everything that embodies the Vancouver lifestyle from beaches, parks, restaurants, and cafes to surf and boarding clothing stores. Your kids will definitely appreciate a visit to the Maritime Museum, the HR MacMillan Space Centre, Kitsilano Beach, or the popular Kitsilano Pool. There are mainly multi-unit houses to choose from, but the prices are quite high for an average inhabitant of Vancouver. It’s safe, but once again, it’s advisable to avoid the parks, poorly lit streets, and beaches at night.

The above paragraphs are really pretty tame when it comes to crime. We're lucky in Canada and BC ~ the majority of crimes in Vancouver are small petty crimes, mainly thefts. The fact that people can wander around safely is one of the reasons Vancouver is such a popular place to live. All you need to do to keep safe is use a little common sense, especially where your car is concerned, as outlined in these tips:

  • Never leave your valuables unattended in your car because they attract criminals. Even popping into a store for only a minute or two can be enough for criminals to brake in.

  • If you don’t want to carry your valuables with you, tuck them out of sight, even if the items aren’t important to you.

  • Try to park in well-lit areas with a lot of pedestrian movement.

  • Don’t leave your windows open, and lock all your doors.

An added note: Child Population In Vancouver

If you plan to relocate and if you’re looking for a safe place to live with your kids, here are some important facts:

Squamish Street by Waferboard
Squamish Street by Waferboard

According to the latest census from Statistics Canada (2011), the number of children in the metropolitan region of Vancouver (14 and younger) has increased since the last census to 15.3 per cent, which means that the total number of children living in Vancouver is 71,345 (while the total population of Vancouver is 603,500 people). The biggest increase in the number of children occurred in the Squamish Metropolitan area and in Surrey. Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and New Westminster were also among the neighbourhoods that saw an increase in the number of child inhabitants. Most children can be found in parts of Maple Ridge, Newton, and Cloverdale, while in areas such as the West End, Kitsilano, Fairview Slopes, and White Rock, the rates of kids are relatively low. Most teenagers are said to live in Surrey’s Fraser Heights and the fewest are concentrated in the West End. So parts of Vancouver are very family-friendly and can be a great place to raise your kids.

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One Response to The Safest Neighbourhoods for Living in Vancouver

  1. henderson says:

    Personally i find downtown vancouver real estate to be a real safe place. I have been living around for 10 years now and never faced any problems.. hope for the best in future as well… totally personal opinion

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