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Above and Beyond: Sgt. Lorna Berndsen

Sgt. Lorna Berndsen started her working life as a dental hygienist but wasn’t challenged by the job. Each day’s sameness and the limited ability to make a difference (people have to choose to floss!) caused her to switch careers and join the VPD. She was drawn by the ability to make a real difference and the fact that she never knows what each day will bring.

Fourteen years later, she is now a Sergeant at the VPD Jail, though she has worked in Patrol, surveillance and investigations.

Lorna is passionate about helping people, making a difference and supporting VPD’s vision of making Vancouver the safest major city in Canada. While she was in Patrol in East Vancouver, she responded to many calls that took her through back lanes. In one incident, she responded to a call of a man with a gun in McLean Park. He took off through the residential area, running through people’s yards, and Lorna chased after him on foot. Because there are no house numbers in Vancouver’s back lanes, she was unable to provide her VPD colleagues with her exact location. She recalls being frightened and hearing the frustration and concern in her colleagues because they couldn’t find her.

Ultimately, the suspect was apprehended. Not only did he have outstanding warrants, but he did have a gun.

This was the proverbial straw for Lorna. She asked a mentor of hers, VPD Sgt. Val Spicer how she should go about making change. Sgt. Spicer suggested an informal poll of her team to see if others felt the same way. They did. 100% of them. Lorna undertook more research, including a pilot survey of how many homes had back lane house numbers in the Strathcona neigborhood. As it turns out, only 17% of homes did.

She reached out to stakeholders and East Van neighbourhood contacts like the Strathcona Community Policing Centre. She ultimately wrote a grant application for a pilot project (Project Landmark) to hand out free number plates to residents. They selected a defined catchment area in Strathcona and began distributing information pamphlets (translated into a few different languages) and number plates. From October 2019 through February 2020, they handed out 450 number plates and were pleased to see an 85% compliance rate. Even more interesting was the comparison they ran (using October 2018 through February 2019 as the comparator) following the distribution of plates to see if there was a noticeable improvement in response time, and there was! A second grant in 2020 to increase the program was approved and by early 2021, Lorna estimates that well over 2,000 numbers plates for unique addresses will have been distributed.

Lorna hopes that the success of Project Landmark will convince the City of Vancouver to pass a bylaw mandating rear address house numbers, like Winnipeg and Calgary. It’s not just good for the VPD, but for all first responders, including fire and ambulance.

Lorna’s passion for policing, helping people and CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) is evident the moment you speak with her. She has volunteered hundreds of hours on this project and will continue to do so.

Great work Sergeant Berndsen!

#aboveandbeyond #safety #dreamwork #communitymatters


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