Police recover loaded semi-automatic rifle in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood

© Vancouver police Police say this loaded, semi-automatic rifle was found in the Strathcona neighbourhood on Sept. 10.

Vancouver police are investigating the discovery of a loaded, semi-automatic rifle about a block from a controversial homeless encampment.

A construction worker found the gun in a tent bag near Prior Street and Heatley Avenue around 9:30 a.m. last Thursday, according to police.

That’s not far from the Strathcona Park camp that area residents blame for an increase in property crime in the area.

Read more: Vancouver city council passes motion to explore emergency shelters for homeless

Police swabbed the gun for fingerprints and have canvassed the area for video surveillance, said Const. Tania Visintin.

Tension has been building in the neighbourhood since homeless people and housing activists established the Strathcona Park camp after being pushed out of Oppenheimer Park and a former lot next to CRAB Park in June.

The camp has since grown to about 400 tents.

Occupants say the camp provides a necessary, safer option than homeless shelters or living on the street, while neighbourhood residents say it has become a haven for criminals and contributed to an uptick in violent incidents in the area.

READ MORE: Tensions between homeless and residents in Strathcona Park area are getting worse: Vancouver mayor

Deputy Vancouver Police Chief Howard Chow told a special council meeting last week that police had seen a 50 per cent increase in weapons calls around Strathcona, along with a 68 per cent increase in break-ins and threatening street disorder.

On Monday, Vancouver city council passed a motion to explore five emergency housing alternatives, including a disaster relief shelter, tiny house villages, or converting hotels to housing.