by Tarah Hodgkinson
It has been over a month since the world went into lockdown and we were all told to #stayhome. Much has changed since then. As we have noted in previous blogs, the world has pulled together to stop the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable. We are also witnessing irresponsible leadership and divisive politics. It has been a trying time and while many of us are beginning to adapt to this new normal, there are still many who are out on the frontlines of the pandemic risking their lives.
Much has changed in our communities as well. In conversations with other criminologists over the last few weeks, I have heard how crime trends are changing around the world. As people move inside and away from the public realm, the nature of crime opportunities is also changing. While these data are still preliminary, some researchers are finding early declines in burglary and theft, while others are warning of dramatic increases in domestic violence.
Indeed, the city of Vancouver has not been immune to these shifts. Commercial burglary has increased dramatically compared to previous years. This is unsurprising to many readers as there is no longer the watchful eyes of owners and employees, and natural surveillance is obsolete.
Many business owners in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood have taken to boarding up their windows as an interim target-hardening measure. However, for those who have spent any time in communities where the downtown is failing and businesses are boarded up, you know this can be a very depressing sight.
One of these Vancouver businesses was less than satisfied with the dreary look of the boards. Local business, Kimsprints, reached out for local artists to paint a mural on the boarded-up shop. The artwork couldn’t be about just anything. It had to celebrate the frontline workers and their incredible efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Soon after, murals of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s public health officer, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s health officer were painted over the boards.
The trend continues with several more painted boards, paying tribute to those assisting during the crisis and brightening the appearance of a community in lockdown. While the crisis continues, these beautiful pieces of community art remind us that not only do we need to support our frontline workers – including demanding worker protections and appropriate pay – but we also should remain resilient and connected rather than divided.