45th Anniversary Blog Series Part 4: VPF 2016 – 2021 – Vancouver Police Foundation
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45th Anniversary Blog Series Part 4: VPF 2016 – 2021

Building a Safer Vancouver Together

This year we are proud to be celebrating our 45th anniversary. That’s 45 years of serving this great city and supporting the goals of the Vancouver Police Department as they go above and beyond. While we do not fund essential policing services, we do eagerly seek and fund initiatives that help the VPD save lives and prevent crime at a grassroots level as well as develop and execute meaningful community outreach programs.

Due to the nature of their work, VPD officers often see the gaps and needs in our neighbourhoods before anyone else. They turn to the Vancouver Police Foundation for funding to launch and operate programs that fill these gaps. These officers go well beyond the scope of their job and typically manage these programs on a voluntary basis—after shifts or on days off.

Over the last month we have highlighted some of the important community programs we granted to since our inception in 1976 up until 2015. Check them out:

Part 1: VPF in the 1900s
Part 2: VPF – 2000-2010
Part 3: VPF – 2016-2021

This week we look at the last five years – a period of significant growth for the Foundation, thank you to the generosity of our donors. This growth means that we have been able to support many more VPD-led community initiatives aimed at making Vancouver safer for all. With more than 220 programs funded in the last 45 years, here are some of the important initiatives from the most recent years:


2016 – Odd Squad Productions – Fentanyl Awareness

The tragedy of the unfolding opioid crisis inspired Odd Squad Productions to produce a comprehensive awareness campaign to bolster existing awareness campaigns throughout Vancouver. They set out to both educate young people and also to inform users about the incredible dangers of fentanyl. With funding from the Foundation, Odd Squad Productions created an awareness video and a series of four podcasts in 2016. The following year they developed a comprehensive printed guide to accompany the video as well as a number of awareness posters for bus shelters in vulnerable neighbourhoods.


2016 – Justice Facility Dog Lucca

 The Vancouver Police Victim Services Unit added a four-legged employee in 2016 with Justice Facility Dog Lucca joining the team. Lucca came from the Pacific Assistant Dog Society (PADS) and is trained to provide a calming presence, diffuse extreme and troubling emotions, and encourage and promote healthy communication. In his role, Lucca works with victims and witnesses of all ages to help them work through traumatic incidents. It has been proven that a dog’s presence, reduces stress hormones in people. Lucca was the first Justice Facility Dog to court – laying on the witness stand at the feet of a victim of a terrible crime.


2017 – St. Paul’s Hospital Mental Health Hub

The Mental Health HUB at St. Paul’s Hospital is an innovative facility that is intended to efficiently connect patients with care givers, reduce wait times at hospital, and provide long-term solutions to the complex challenges associated with mental illness and drug addiction. The Foundation was proud to provide $750,000 for this new facility that not only has the goal of improving the short term and long-term quality of care for people with serious mental health challenges, but also intends to free up police resources by reducing escort times at Emergency Department at St. Paul’s Hospital.


2017 – Her Time

After recognizing that gang education and prevention programs have primarily been male-focussed, two female VPD members, then in the VPD’s Gang Crime Unit, created Her Time to provide young women with critical female-focused information about gang life. Proactively, the program supplies young women with the tools, resources, and knowledge about the dangers of gang lifestyle. Reactively, the program offers women currently involved in gang life the opportunity to connect with the detectives who provide assistance with an exit strategy. Despite no longer being in the Gang Crime Unit, they continue to volunteer a significant amount of their time to Her Time, which as seen explosive growth in demand since its inception.


2017 – Project Landmark

Sgt. Lorna Berndsen launched Project Landmark  to make it easier for first responders to find locations from the back laneways of the city. She had been on several calls where it took several vital minutes to find the home they were looking for. This delay can mean life or death to those needing police, ambulance or fire. There are only two cities in Canada that make rear address signage mandatory and Sgt. Berndsen has used Project Landmark to encourage Vancouver to do the same. Project Landmark distributed hundreds of number plates, along with education materials in several languages, to residents in east Vancouver. There was incredible uptake on the signage, with over 80% of homes adding the rear address signage to their residences.


2018 – Here4Peers

This peer-led mental wellness program for grade seven students aims to reduce the stigma of mental health. In conjunction with the Vancouver School Board and Canadian Mental Health Association Vancouver Branch, Her4Peers is facilitated by VPD members from the Youth Services Section and delivers workshops and facilitator training so that grades 10-12 facilitators work directly with grade seven students. Not only does this program try to make conversations about mental health a regular part of conversations and interactions, it provides a wealth of additional resources to youth.


2019 – Out On Patrol

After identifying a need for greater peer support and 2SLGBTQ+ community outreach and education, particularly in law enforcement, VPD Constable Chris Birkett, along with a handful of other law enforcement members, launched Out On Patrol in 2019 with funding support from the Foundation. As an incorporated non-profit society in BC, Out On Patrol serves not only 2SLGBTQ+ law enforcement members, but also the greater 2SLGBTQ+ community at large – including friends and family. It provides a safe and accepting space for conversation and support for members not only in Vancouver but also all over the world.


2019 – Pulling Together Canoe Journey

The Pulling Together Canoe Journey is a powerful relationship-building initiative between various cultures and government agencies, including police departments throughout the Lower Mainland. Since its inception, it has seen more than 500 Indigenous peoples, youth and law enforcement members paddle through the indigenous waters of British Columbia.  The VPD has been participating in the program since 2001, and the VPF has been supporting it in a more significant way in recent years.


2020 – Human Trafficking Awareness

This public awareness campaign launched in June 2020 courtesy of funding from the TELUS Future Friendly Foundation. VPD Detective Constable Karen Szeto identified that there was a significant need to increase public awareness around human trafficking, which happens here in our own backyard. Sadly, this is a prolific problem with younger and younger children and youth being targeted. This online awareness campaign aimed to reach potential victims, friends, and family who may suspect someone is being exploited and provided information about who to turn to for more information and support.


2020 – Personal Safety Alarms – Strathcona and Chinatown

Neighbourhood Policing Officer Byron Yee approached the Foundation to support residents of Strathcona and Chinatown. These neighbourhoods are in the city’s District Two, which in 2019 recorded 39.8% of all Vancouver’s violent crimes (sexual offences, assaults, robbery). The alarms emit a piercing noise intended to scare off would-be assailants and alert others nearby that someone may need assistance. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic meant that the distribution of these alarms was delayed. When the program got underway in 2021, it proved so popular that Cst. Yee requested a second order of the alarms, which the Foundation granted. 


2021 – Peter Wall Public Safety and Community Policing Initiatives

 In January 2021, the Foundation announced a transformative $1 million gift from philanthropist Peter Wall. The donation, which will provide $200,000 each year for five years, is intended to support a range of public safety initiatives around Vancouver and to provide support for specific neighbourhoods through five Community Policing Centres – the Aboriginal CPC, Chinatown CPC, Strathcona, Downtown-Granville and Coal Harbour-West End. The VPD’s Neighbourhood Policing Officers attached to these CPCs are able to approach the Foundation throughout the year with ideas to address emerging or critical need in their communities. So far, the Foundation has been able to fund over a dozen innovative initiatives thanks to Mr. Wall’s incredible generosity and commitment to making Vancouver safer for all. 


2021 – Accredited Facility Dogs Sadie & Zen

Last year, the VPF helped add two new incredible resources to support the mental health of VPD members – Accredited Facility Dogs (AFD) Sadie and Zen. With so much research showing the profoundly positive effect dogs can have in lowering human distress, Sadie joined the Internet Child Exploitation Unit to help support the mental health of officers who investigate the most horrendous of crimes – those against children – and Zen joined the Employee Wellness Unit to provide comprehensive mental health support to all VPD members.

 


2021 – Cultural Health & Learning

Fostering an ongoing relationship with Indigenous communities across Vancouver and beyond has been a priority for many years for both the VPD and the Vancouver Police Foundation. A process of listening, understanding and healing has been at work for decades with years of important work in this area still to come. The Cultural Health & Learning initiative, led by VPD Constable Richard Lavallee who is of Cree/Metis heritage, is a multifaceted program working to Indigenize healing and learning amongst policing partners who serve Indigenous communities around BC. This initiative helps educate officers on Indigenous cultural practices and methodology. VPD members have the opportunity to experience cultural customs such as the Sweat Lodge, canoe journeys and Smudging ceremonies.


The Vancouver Police Foundation supports programs and initiatives that fall under one of four pillars: Youth Programs, Mental Health & Addictions, Community Outreach & Engagement, and Technology & Special Equipment. You can help build a safer Vancouver by donating to the Vancouver Police Foundation.